For a fifth year in a row, food banks in the GTA saw over a million client visits. Underneath that figure hides very different numbers for different parts of the GTA, depending if people live in the city core, the former inner suburbs, or the 905 region.
The former inner suburbs of Toronto (Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke) saw an increase of nearly 40 per cent since 2008 in numbers of visits to food banks. Those numbers include highly educated, but underemployed, newcomer families with children living in apartments that are barely affordable. In the city core, it is single baby boomers with disabilities who are more often turning to a food bank for support, as they struggle with fixed incomes and rising food costs.
“While the number of children visiting food banks is about a third of all visits, in the 905 children 14 and under account for almost 40 per cent of all visits and nearly 40 per cent of people in the 905 are the working poor, with at least one member of the household employed,” said Richard Matern, senior manager of public affairs and author of the Who’s Hungry: A Tale of Three Cities report.
“We’re finding very different issues emerging from each of the three cities. The only common thing that they share is poverty, and the hunger that comes with it. In the short-term, Daily Bread can make sure they aren’t going hungry, and in the long-term we’re going to continue finding and fighting for solutions to poverty that will reduce the inexcusable levels of hunger that people across the city are struggling with,” said Gail Nyberg, executive director of Daily Bread Food Bank. “Many of us will sit down in a couple of weeks to a full meal over Thanksgiving. I think everyone should be able to experience that, and not worry where food for their children is going to come from.”
As for solutions, both Matern and Nyberg agree that one of the biggest issues facing food bank clients is a lack of affordable housing. Most are spending 73 per cent of what have on housing costs, leaving little left over for everything else, food included. A housing benefit would go a long way to making a significant positive impact on the lives of people struggling with hunger. As well, a strong poverty reduction agenda from the Ontario government is needed with a clear plan, key targets, and a commitment to transforming the current income security programs including Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Programs.
Daily Bread’s Thanksgiving Drive starts September 24 with a goal to raise $300,000 and 200,000 pounds of food by October 19. You can make a difference by donating online at www.dailybread.ca or by calling 416-203-0050. Drop off nutritious, non-perishable food at any local Toronto fire hall, as well as participating grocery stores. Most needed food items include: baby formula and food; peanut butter; canned fruit or vegetables; canned fish or meat; dried pasta and tomato sauce; rice; lentils and beans (canned or dried); hearty soup or stew.