Today, Food Banks Canada released their annual Hunger Count, detailing trends in food bank use across Canada. The report reveals that unemployment rates have declined nationally and along with it, national food bank use has decreased by 1% compared to last year. When we look at the Toronto region however, we see the reverse trend – food bank visits have increased by 4% in the past year despite low rates of unemployment.
What is causing the increase in Toronto?
Our Who’s Hungry 2019 report reveals that the monthly income of food bank clients has remained constant at $806 since last year, but the cost of housing and food have been rising in Toronto faster than the national average. Toronto’s rental vacancy rate continues to decline, pushing rents higher and higher. Food bank clients in Toronto report spending a median of 74% of their income on housing – up from 68% last year. In the Toronto region, we are also seeing significant growth in the inner suburbs as the city core becomes more and more unaffordable.
Who is accessing food banks?
Many of the national demographic trends in food bank use are mirrored in Toronto. There has been a decline in single parent households accessing food banks nationally, but a rise in single individual households. In every province, single individuals now make up the greatest proportion of food bank clients. In Toronto, the proportion of single individuals accessing food banks (51%) is higher than the national average (48%).
Social assistance is the most common income source of food bank clients across Canada (47%), and this proportion is even higher in the Toronto region (60%). For the 57% of food bank clients in the Toronto region who are living with a disability, social assistance is often the only option for those who are unable to maintain consistent employment. In Ontario, social assistance rates for people with disabilities have declined by 7.9% since 1989, when comparing the real dollar value of the benefit rate.
Where do we go from here?
People all across Canada are struggling to make ends meet and afford food, one of life’s most basic necessities. In the Toronto region, we have seen over 1 million food bank visits in the past year alone. To end hunger, we must end poverty. The federal election has concluded and we join Food Banks Canada in calling for our government to put poverty reduction at the top of their agenda by supporting the creation of affordable childcare, increasing supports for single adults living with low incomes, and implementing the Canada Housing Benefit.
Click here to read the full report.