Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank have released the annual Who’s Hungry report, which focuses this year on building a future without poverty beyond COVID-19.
The report reveals that prior to COVID-19, food bank use had already increased by 5% compared to the previous year, with close to one million visits in the city of Toronto—the same level as the peak following the 2008-09 financial crisis.
With the arrival of COVID-19, food bank visits continued to climb significantly, increasing by 22% in June and a staggering 51% in August compared to the previous year. It is expected that this year will have the highest number of food bank visits ever recorded in Toronto.
While COVID-19 has worsened food insecurity, our research highlights the systemic inequities that keep food bank clients marginalized despite their best efforts. Emergency responses, including food banks and drop-in meals, do not solve food insecurity: 85% of survey respondents reported that they did not always have enough food to eat even after food bank use. As a result, 43% went hungry at least once a week.
Survey respondents talked about how insufficient income, precarious employment, and unaffordable housing are the primary barriers to achieving their right to food:
- Food bank clients reported a median income of $892, less than half of the monthly income required to have a basic standard of living, based on official poverty line for Toronto;
- 62% of employed survey respondents were working in precarious temporary, part-time or contract jobs, which have been hardest hit by job losses during COVID-19; and
- 83% of food bank clients living in private market rentals (i.e. not subsidized housing) were paying more than half of their income on housing, putting them at high risk of homelessness.
COVID-19 has placed us at a crossroads. To meet this opportunity for systemic change, Daily Bread and North York Harvest recommend the following immediate actions be taken:
- Eliminate deep poverty by increasing social assistance rates, centering community-based responses in poverty reduction, and increasing refundable tax benefits vulnerable populations.
- Make employment a pathway out of poverty by implementing national, universal childcare, raising the minimum wage, enhancing employment standards, and implementing a national pharmacare program.
- Achieve affordable housing for all by providing immediate and long-term rent relief, increasing the supply of affordable housing, and ensuring that housing and development policies meet the needs of those with low incomes.
It is time to listen to the food bank client voices who have long been calling for a more just and fair society.
Please join us for a webinar on November 26 at 7 PM for a discussion on how we can achieve a future without poverty. Click here to register.
To read the full report, click here.