Toronto food banks see surge in demand amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Food bank visits in Toronto have increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.Usage in June, for example, increased 22% from the same month last year. In August, meanwhile, visits were up 51% from the same period last year, according to the report.

But the report, Who’s Hungry – Beyond COVID-19: Building a Poverty-Free Future, says the rise of food insecurity in the city is not just a COVID-19 problem.

Instead, the Daily Bread Food Bank and the North York Harvest Food Bank, co-authors of the report, say the pandemic has exacerbated the financial situation of many people in Toronto, which has enabled the use of food banks. in the city to reach a record high. .

“Further government action is needed to prevent the skyrocketing use of food banks during COVID-19 from becoming another long-term crisis,” the food banks said in a press release.

Even before the government shutdown in March, there was a sharp increase in food bank visits.

Food bank use increased 5% before pandemic in Greater Toronto Area

The report says there were nearly a million visits to Toronto food banks between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020.

He predicts that this year will have the most food bank visits ever recorded in the city.

“Although we have seen the queues increase, we know that food insecurity is not just a COVID-19 problem,” the report read.

“In fact, even before the effects of the pandemic were felt, food bank visits in Toronto had returned to the same level as the peak that followed the 2008-09 financial crisis.

Prior to COVID-19, food bank use increased 5% in the Greater Toronto Area in the past fiscal year, according to the report.

Visits to Toronto food banks were up 51 percent in August compared to the same period last year, according to the Daily Bread Food Bank’s annual report. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Respondents skip meals to pay rent, bills

According to the report, survey respondents had an adjusted median income of $ 892, which is only half of the Market Basket Measure (MBM) of Toronto, Canada’s official poverty line.

“Canadians are not poor just because they ‘fell through the cracks’,” he said. “Instead, our income security system sets a low floor, which provides income from poverty.”

The report also pointed out that food insecurity for many households is due in part to having to pay for other basic necessities, like last year’s results.

Sixty-seven percent of those who responded to the survey said they skipped a meal to pay for other necessities.

More than half say they had to skip a meal to pay rent, while others skip meals to pay for transportation or telephone and internet costs.

The report notes that the most common strategy used is to rely on debt, whether it’s credit card loans or borrowing from family and friends.

“Even after visiting a food bank, which typically provides about three days of food, 85 percent of respondents said they don’t always have enough to eat. As a result, 43 percent were hungry at least once a week. ”

“Even after visiting a food bank, which typically provides about three days of food, 85% of respondents said they did not always have enough food to eat,” the report said. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

In October, the Daily Bread food bank was struggling with excessive demand. It has seen an increase in the number of customers of more than 200 percent, from 10,000 in the same period last year to 25,000 this year.

The report calls on the federal government to take additional measures to support food insecure households.

“Emergency political responses to COVID-19, like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), helped prevent thousands of Canadians from sliding into poverty, but extreme poverty was already the reality for the vast majority of food bank clients, ”one reads.

The inequalities that the crisis has highlighted have deep roots that go far beyond the current crisis.– Rapport Who’s Hungry 2020

He also calls on the provincial government to help prevent evictions and provide immediate and long-term rent relief. He also calls for an increase in affordable housing and health benefits for low-income communities, as well as an increase in the minimum wage.

“If there’s one lesson to be learned from COVID-19, it’s that people’s vulnerabilities are shaped by their circumstances,” it read. “The inequalities that the crisis has highlighted have deep roots that go far beyond the current crisis. “

The number of new food bank clients has increased by over 200%. 100, from 10,000 in the same period last year to 25,000 this year. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

The Daily Break Food Bank polls food banks every year for trends and this year has partnered with the North York Harvest Food Bank.

Its annual survey was to be conducted from early March to late April at 47 branches of the Daily Bread Food Bank and food banks of North York Harvest member agencies.

Food banks pulled information from a database called Link2Feed to track the number of visits. But, following COVID-19, food bank data collection was halted in mid-March.

The survey results in the report only reflect surveys completed between March 2 and March 13, 2020. A total of 397 surveys were collected from 21 agencies and 387 were deemed sufficiently completed to be included in the analysis. .

The report also notes that due to the considerably smaller sample size compared to previous years due to the pandemic, “caution should be used” when making comparisons with results from previous years.

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