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Because hunger doesn't wait for policy change.





Ontario Budget 2018: An opportunity to set “The Roadmap for Change” off to a strong start

In November 2017, the provincial government released “Income Security: A Roadmap for Change”, written by three groups that were appointed by the Minister of Community and Social Services (MCSS) in 2016 to give advice on how to reform Ontario’s income security system.

The Roadmap made some important recommendations, including significantly increasing social assistance rates, making the system less punitive, and implementing an Ontario Housing Benefit.

The 2018 Ontario Budget provides an opportunity to immediately invest in two recommendations proposed by the Roadmap:

  1. Implement a Standard Flat Rate, collapsing the Basic Needs Allowance and Shelter Allowance portions of social assistance into one amount;
  2. Setting this Standard Flat Rate to $794 per month for Ontario Works and $1,209 for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

While greater investments will still need to be made to bring people out of poverty, these will be crucial steps that have the power to transform the system and can have an impact on people struggling with hunger in Toronto.

The Standard Flat Rate

In Daily Bread’s 2016 Who’s Hungry report we profiled Tim, a food bank client and volunteer who had lost his job after 30 years and was homeless. Tim’s health was deteriorating, and his condition was exacerbated from having to sleep outdoors. Because he couldn’t work and had no other income options he was able to access Ontario Works but was in a catch-22: because he was homeless, he was not entitled to receive the Shelter Allowance, only the Basic Needs Allowance – a little over $300 a month. Because of this bureaucratic separation between the Basic Needs and Shelter portions of Ontario Works, Tim was receiving only half of an already low level of income support, creating another barrier to his escaping homelessness.

Tim’s situation reveals one of many structural flaws of the present social assistance system, but the 2018 Ontario Budget presents an opportunity to correct this flaw: implementing a Standard Flat Rate, which would collapse the Basic Needs and Shelter allowances into one amount. This change would ensure that everyone receiving social assistance would have the same level of support, regardless of whether they are homeless, renting or owning, or live in rent-geared-to-income housing.

This change would also help accommodate various living arrangements people have to make in today’s challenging rental market in order to maintain housing, such as sharing accommodation with others. The present system is designed to monitor and regulate people’s living situation by basing rates on shelter costs, and where and with whom you live. This creates further hardship and barriers to those receiving assistance, as well as adding to the administrative burden of the system and the front line workers trying to help individuals in need.

Increasing social assistance rates and developing a Minimum Income Standard

We know that the main driver of the need for food banks in Toronto is lack of income: this is in large part due to the extremely low levels of income provided by provincial social assistance.

The majority of clients accessing food banks in Toronto receive one of two provincial social assistance programs as their main source of income. According to Daily Bread’s most recent Who’s Hungry survey, 64% rely on either Ontario Works or ODSP as their main source of income.

As the labour market continues its shift from full-time employment to part-time employment, greater numbers of people out of work are forced to rely on provincial social assistance, and those with a disability are less likely to be able to access employer-triggered disability income programs.

Despite being a crucial source of income support for almost a million Ontarians, the levels of income have fallen so far behind inflation there would need to be a 41% increase in OW payments, and a 23% increase in ODSP payments, for them to be equivalent to what they were worth in 1993.

In order to address this crucial gap in income adequacy, the Roadmap proposes that rates be immediately increased by 10% for a single person receiving Ontario Works and 5% increase for those on ODSP. This increase would bring amounts to $794 and $1,209 respectively.

While the working group chose an amount that the government could realistically implement, it was recommended that the government move as quickly as possible to move those in deepest poverty towards an adequate level of income that more accurately reflects actual living costs.

While the Roadmap proposes this initially be done through direct increases to social assistance rates, the report states that the goal should be to bring every household in the province to a “Minimum Income Standard” through a combination of social assistance and other income supports by 2027-2028.

The defined Minimum Income Standard would initially be set at the same level as the official Low-Income Measure used by the province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (LIM-50) plus an additional 30% added for persons with a disability.

To reach this minimum standard would require supports that go beyond increases to provincial social assistance rates, and be part of a “building block” approach that combines municipal, provincial and federal cash benefits as well as housing supports and core health benefits (such as prescription drug coverage). This could also include a portable housing benefit, proposed by the Roadmap as a universal, income-tested benefit to provide direct financial assistance to help with high rental costs.

The Roadmap for Change provides achievable targets and tactics that will effect real change in the lives of people struggling with hunger and poverty in Ontario.

The Ontario Budget 2018 is a chance to take a solid step in the right direction and reach those targets.

Let’s get moving.

Date Added: February 8, 2018 | Filed under: Blog, Government, Information, News, Research — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Adam Paralovos @ 10:34 am

Toronto City Budget 2018: More access, more equity

“We need to figure out a way to fund agencies to ensure that people have the nourishment that they need…It’s a shame that this is something that is needed, but it is. And we need to do our best as a city to find space for them.” Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) – Article from the Toronto Star, Tues. Jan 2, 2018

In its pre-budget submission to the City, the Toronto Food Policy Council made several recommendations to be considered in the 2018 Poverty Reduction Strategy work plan, including requesting the availability for space for a range of food related programming1.

Daily Bread Food Bank echoes this recommendation, in particular the recommendation to enable access to space in Toronto Community Housing properties for food banks and other food programming available to the wider community.

In many cases, accessing suitable space from which to distribute food can be as challenging as keeping up with the demand for food. In its commitment to its Poverty Reduction Strategy and creating a more fair and equitable city, the City of Toronto can use the 2018 budget as a recognition of the rapidly growing numbers of people struggling with hunger by providing access to its surplus space from which to run community led food programs such as food banks, at little or no extra cost to the city.

Demand for food banks in Toronto is growing rapidly, but available spaces from which to operate them are shrinking

From April 2016 to March 2017, there were a total of 990,970 client visits to Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank member agencies. This is the highest annual client visit number in Toronto since 2010, when the effects of the 2008 recession hit Torontonians with full force. This is 9 per cent higher than 2016, and 24 per cent higher than 2008.

The surge in demand has not only affected food banks’ ability to provide food, but in some cases their ability to accommodate growing numbers of clients in program spaces. Last year, 22 per cent of Daily Bread agencies reported they had difficulty in providing adequate waiting room space to accommodate people accessing the program.

The majority of Daily Bread’s 130 member agencies run their food programs in local churches and community centres, and the space available to accommodate clients is varied: some have large open spaces in churches, while others have their clients line in hallways, stairwells or outside. Challenges related to space include property maintenance and accessibility issues in the case of church-run programs, and lack of space and rent increases for some community centres. As Toronto continues to gentrify and available space with which to run food programs becomes more expensive and precarious, more neighbourhood food banks across the city will struggle accommodating clients in the future as the need continues to grow.

When does access to space for food programs in Toronto become an equity issue? The Scarborough story

The most recent census data shows that census tracts with the highest concentrations of people living with low income, as well as highest percentages of visible minorities, are in the northern and outer reaches of the city. Coincidentally, those are also the areas where there are not enough food banks to keep up with the demand; existing food banks are also located so far apart many clients can`t afford transportation to get to them. Additionally, the spaces in which these programs operate are themselves vulnerable to rapidly rising rent costs.

For Daily Bread member agencies, the area of the city where the issue of space is of particular concern is Scarborough.

“Currently we do not pay rent, however [the housing provider] is considering implementing a rent or utility cost for commercial tenants like us. We have significantly outgrown this space but with no rent n our budget, we are unable to move to a more suitable location.” Food bank in Scarborough

A hot real estate market is making it increasingly difficult for some food programs to either find or maintain a suitable space from which to operate. While some food programs are run by faith-based groups who have space provided free of charge by the sponsoring organization, others, such as those located in larger community centres or public housing units, have to pay for the space. This is especially an issue in north and east Scarborough which, compared to the city core, have less “’faith-based infrastructure” such as church space, which means food programs have to find other space that they can afford.

Food banks in Toronto, including those operated by multiservice centres, do not receive government funding and mostly rely on private donations. As affordable space in Toronto becomes more challenging to find, many food banks, including those in Scarborough, will be in an increasingly vulnerable position to maintain their operations, despite rapidly increasing need.

Of the seven wards in Scarborough that have Daily Bread member agency food banks:

  • Five have shown increases of over 10 per cent in client visits in the last year alone;
  • Wards 39 and 40, both in the Agincourt area of north Scarborough, have seen increases of over 70 per cent, the highest increases in the city.

Food banks in Scarborough report seeing high numbers of recent newcomers, including convention refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. Many are paying on average 82 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and have very little left over for essentials like food.

And it’s not just food banks that struggle to find or maintain space to operate in these areas. Other kinds of food-related programming that can be essential tools of community development for low income or newcomer communities, such as urban farming or community kitchens, also face ongoing roadblocks in finding space to run programs.

Many would agree that being able to access food is a human right. However lack of adequate income supports, alongside diminishing space from which to help low income communities, mean that this right is becoming increasingly out of reach for too many.

Help create a more equitable city: enable food banks to have more access to city-owned space.

By identifying and facilitating access to space of City owned properties for food access, the City can demonstrate its commitment to its Poverty Reduction Strategy, as well as equity and human rights.

Link to Daily Bread’s Who’s Hungry Report:
Link to ward map of Daily Bread agencies:

1 “That City staff identify spaces for use by community-led initiatives (both growing spaces, and office, program and cooking spaces), based on current inventories of surplus space, and that staff focus on NIAs in identifying these spaces.” Letter from the Toronto Food Policy Council to the Executive Committee of Toronto City Council, November 27, 2017.

Date Added: January 19, 2018 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Information, Member Agencies, News, Research — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Adam Paralovos @ 2:07 pm

Report Released: A Roadmap for Change – input needed before January 2, 2018

A new report called “Income Security: A Roadmap for Change” has just been released by the provincial government.

The Roadmap was written by three groups that were appointed by the Minister of Community and Social Services (MCSS) in 2016 to give advice to the government on how to reform Ontario’s income security system.

Former Daily Bread board member John Stapleton was a member of the Income Security Reform Working Group, one of the three groups that contributed to the report.

We urge everyone to read the Roadmap, engage with its recommendations, and participate in the public consultation process. Public consultation will take place between now and January 2, 2018.

The Roadmap is available here:

The government’s press release is here:

The government is asking people to provide feedback in writing. Information about the feedback process is here:

The Roadmap makes some important recommendations, including large increases to social assistance rates, making the system less punitive, and the implementation of an Ontario Housing Benefit.

This is an important opportunity to push government to action, and make real change that can have an impact on people struggling with hunger in Toronto.

Date Added: November 17, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, News, Research — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Adam Paralovos @ 8:08 am

A federal housing benefit would help in reducing need for food banks

The National Housing Collaborative is recommending a housing benefit for renters in the 2017 federal budget. A housing benefit, given directly to a tenant, would help to address the lack of income which drives the need to get emergency food relief from a food bank.

The financial pressure of housing costs is the key reason for the high demand on Toronto food banks, which saw over 900,000 visits in 2016. Daily Bread’s 2016 Who’s Hungry report showed that, on average, food bank clients spend 71 per cent of their income on rent and utilities; of those who reported skipping meals to pay for something else, the most commonly cited expense was rent.

“A portable housing benefit helps to address the demand side of affordable housing by increasing tenant incomes,” said Richard Matern, Director of Research and Communications at Daily Bread Food Bank. “To maximize its effectiveness in reducing poverty, a federal housing benefit should be one piece of the affordable housing response, in addition to increasing the supply of affordable housing.”

Working on the frontlines at Daily Bread and our 130 member agencies, we see far too often how people are forced to choose between buying food or paying rent. A housing benefit would go a long way toward helping to make sure that people don’t have to make those painful choices.

Read the Daily Bread press release about the federal housing benefit.

Date Added: January 24, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Information, News, Policy, Research — Tags: , , , , , , , — Adam Paralovos @ 7:26 pm

Toronto City Budget 2017

In order to balance the upcoming city budget, city departments have been instructed to cut their budgets by 2.6 per cent. This amounts to nearly $77 million in cuts, with the possibility of cuts to programs and services that help the most vulnerable in our city.

The city is looking into cutting homeless prevention services, dental programs, and rent subsidies for day care programs, in addition to stopping expansion of student nutrition programs.

The widening gap

While Toronto has a red-hot real estate market and a very competitive business environment, it also has the highest levels of working poor and child poverty in Canada.

City budgets that cut services to the most vulnerable, and increase user fees and transit costs well above the rate of inflation, while keeping property taxes below the rate of inflation, only reinforce this widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Budget cuts to the most vulnerable don’t save money – they just transfer the cost

Cutting or limiting the expansion of programs might balance a budget in the short term, but that does not eliminate their true cost – that cost is simply transferred to individuals.

Without student nutrition programs, many parents have to make choices about giving up food so their child can have breakfast, and many children may simply go to school hungry. Without daycare subsidies, parents may have to decide that taking that job may not be worth the cost of daycare. Without dental programs, people may have to sacrifice food money in order to fix that broken tooth.

Food banks across Toronto have been seeing a strong increase in demand in the past year, particularly in the former inner suburbs where the lower income population is more likely to live. Lack of affordable housing, combined with the recent rise in food prices, have led many to come to a food bank for the first time.

Food banks feed hungry Torontonians but are being stretched to their limits

Daily Bread Food Bank is a non-profit organization that provides food and support to almost 200 food programs and 136 member agencies across Toronto. Last year alone there were over 900,000 visits to these agencies and to North York Harvest food banks.

There are many Daily Bread Food Bank member agencies operating in almost every ward throughout the city. The majority of member agencies run their food programs in local churches and community centres. Dedicated staff and volunteers in these agencies pick up, stock, and distribute food to people in their community in addition to providing other services to support people on low incomes.

Food banks in the former inner suburbs are bursting at the seams, seeing a nearly 50 per cent increase in client demand since 2008. Food programs in the city core have disappeared or are at risk of disappearing due to gentrification, redevelopment and the accompanying increases in rent.

Despite being an essential source of food for tens of thousands of Torontonians, Daily Bread and food programs operate largely outside of government and do not receive government funding. On its own, Daily Bread moves about $22 million worth of food on a budget of about $8 million, relying primarily on private donations from individuals and corporations.

It is our hope that city council considers that cost savings in the short term need to be balanced against the financial and social impact on individuals living with low income, and on the non-profits that already struggle to serve them.

Find out more about the need for food banks in Toronto. Our most recent Who’s Hungry report is here:

Daily Bread member agencies operate in almost every ward throughout the city. Find out more about food programs in your ward here:

Date Added: January 11, 2017 | Filed under: Blog, Government, In the News, Member Agencies, News, Policy, Research — Tags: , , , , , , , — Adam Paralovos @ 1:47 pm