A new research bulletin from Daily Bread Food Bank, A Decade of Deep Poverty, takes a deep dive into twelve years of data from Who’s Hungry to look at income and poverty among food bank users. The results are disconcerting and compelling.
Canada’s official poverty line is a statistical calculation of what the basics of life cost: housing, food, transportation, clothing, and a bit more. So, in Toronto, the minimum income needed to live a life of basic dignity, would be $24,720. One would be considered in “deep poverty” if your income was less than $18,540.
The median income of a food bank client is $13,272.
In plain language, even if the income of a typical food bank user was doubled, they would still be in poverty. In 2021, people’s monthly incomes to cover everything was $1,106 a month (or $1,070, adjusted to 2020 dollars). In fact, a large number would still be deep poverty.
The people who were most likely to report the lowest incomes are singles (lone individuals), those with disabilities, and/or those who are on social assistance (OW/ODSP).
Social assistance rates have been so low over the past 12 years, that our analysis found that 97% of food bank users on social assistance were below the deep poverty line.
Provincial social assistance rates are leaving 800,000 Ontarians hundreds of dollars behind the poverty line every month.
This month’s Cost-of-Living Index show that the cost of groceries in Ontario has risen 11.5% since September this time last year. And, as inflation has accelerated, we are seeing more people turn to food banks.
Everyday shoppers are learning rapidly what it means to stretch a dollar, and suddenly more people can identify with those who have been making some hard trade-offs in the check-out line for years. In the face of the escalating costs-of-living, the discussion of the adequacy of social assistance and income rates is gaining public attention.
Poverty lines must mean more than a simple number. They are the evidence-based income floor which allows one to live a life of simple dignity, where one does not have to rely on charity or do without the basics.
If we believe in the right to sufficient, appropriate, and nutritious food, incomes must be adequate so that no one has to worry whether they can afford to eat.
Click here to read the full report.