Reliance on Toronto’s food banks reaches critical level: Report

For the first time, new clients have outnumbered existing clients

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The holiday season of goodwill may be ramping up, but so is Canada’s food crisis, with more people relying on food banks while struggling to deal with the after-effects of the pandemic.

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Every sector of the country has been impacted, and the latest food insecurity numbers Toronto is grappling with are at their most devastating, with one in three food bank clients reporting going the entire day without eating. This according to a recent annual report from Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank, which has seen an unprecedented surge in visits that has left the non-profit organization reeling.

The report, titled Whose Hungry , in partnership with North York Harvest Food Bank, reveals a staggering 1.45 million visits to food banks in the past year — the highest number recorded in the organization’s history, and a 47% increase compared to the year previously.

Profiling the state of hunger in the city, the report also found that, for the first time, new clients have outnumbered existing clients looking to put food on the table — a 61% increase compared to the year prior.

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Organizers pointed out there are now many living in a state of crisis even while pandemic restrictions are easing and the economy is reopening.

“This is the highest number of food bank visits since we’ve been keeping records dating back to 1995,”  said Talia Bronstein, v-p of research and advocacy for the Daily Bread Food Bank. “There are a number of factors at stake, including the economic pressures brought on by the pandemic, unemployment and underemployment.

“Add to that the combination of lack of affordable housing and insufficient income support, all contributing to an unstable foundation. When the shock of the pandemic hit, we really didn’t have the resilience (to deal with it) in place.”

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That said, Bronstein notes the current situation “could have been prevented,” starting with a call on the government to “help build the resiliency. We need an income support system in place, and affordable housing.”

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Bronstein says everyone can help turn this ship around by “supporting the immediate need by donating and volunteering. Top foods most needed are high-protein items like canned tuna, beans, pasta sauce.

“But equally, if not more important, is that we need to advocate for change, with a strong voice from the people to hold government accountable.”

One critical factor in the report, she notes, is that, after rent and utilities “a person has basically $9.17 to cover everything else, including food and transportation.”

Visit dailybread.ca/whoshungry to read the full Who’s Hungry 2021 report.

rdemontis@postmedia.com

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