Nov 14, 2023

One in ten Torontonians now rely on food banks – twice as many as the year prior.

Visits to Toronto food banks have increased by almost one million in the last year – the highest annual increase ever reported by Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank.

Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank have released the annual Who’s Hungry report, a profile of food insecurity in the City of Toronto. This year’s report illustrates the grim reality facing tens of thousands of Torontonians, with one in ten people having to rely on food banks.

In the last year, there were 2.53 million client visits to Toronto food banks – a 51% increase compared to the year prior. If usage continues at the current rate, we will be seeing three million visits by the end of this calendar year.

“Skyrocketing housing costs, food inflation, stagnating wages and insufficient income supports are pushing more and more households into deep poverty,” says Neil Hetherington, CEO, Daily Bread Food Bank. “Food is a human right and immediate government action is needed to ensure that every person in our city can live a life of dignity.”

Who’s Hungry 2023 Key Findings:

  • After paying rent and utilities, food bank clients have a median of $6.67 left per person, per day for food and all other necessities, this is a significant drop from $8.01 last year.
  • Over 120,000 new individuals started using food bank services for the first time this past year – this is a 154% increase compared to the previous year.
  • 52% of these new clients have someone in their household that is employed.
  • Of the 35% of food bank clients who have a disability, 61% rely on social assistance for income, which leaves them at least $1,000 below the poverty line each month.
  • Close to one quarter (23%) of food bank clients spend 100% of their income on housing, leaving no money for other necessities, putting them at high risk of homelessness.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) food bank clients went a whole day without eating and more than half (55%) of food bank clients missed a meal to pay for something else.

Despite inflation rising by 11% since 2021, the median hourly wage ($16) and median weekly hours worked among food bank clients have remained the same during this period. “My income doesn’t cover all my needs,” said a Who’s Hungry survey respondent. “That’s why I have to rely on support like the food bank.” While another said “I’m working, but it’s still not enough. Sometimes I have to borrow money, then I have to pay it back; it’s a cycle.”

“The report’s findings, while heartbreaking, are not a surprise. Food banks are being counted on to address the immediate needs and our sector simply cannot solve this crisis on its own,” says Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest Food Bank. “To truly eradicate hunger, it takes more than food banks raising food and funds. There is an urgent need for collaboration and real action among the government, the private sector and food banks.”

Food insecurity is a public policy issue requiring public policy solutions. Who’s Hungry 2023 is a call to action from a city in crisis. The report outlines key actions for government and the public to help end food insecurity in our city and ensure that every Torontonian can realize their right to food.

Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank call for the following:

  1. The Government of Canada to rapidly design and implement an adequate and accessible Canada Disability Benefit so that eligible recipients begin receiving the benefit by 2025.
  2. The Government of Ontario to commit to a minimum of 300,000 units of permanently affordable and supportive homes in Ontario over the next 10 years, with a minimum of 50,000 in Toronto.
  3. The City of Toronto to ensure Toronto’s forthcoming Poverty Reduction Strategy Action Plan provides concrete actions, with funding attached, to prevent food insecurity and promote resiliency among Toronto’s community food programs.

Click here to read the full report and detailed recommendations.

Watch our video.

To support the release of this report, and to raise awareness about food insecurity, the CN Tower in Toronto will be lit up in Daily Bread’s colours of yellow and green on November 14, 2023.

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