• Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023

Food For the Hungry

Because So Much Is Riding On Your Food For the Hungry

CEO calls 2.5 million client visits to Toronto’s food banks ‘obscene’

Report says 1 in 10 Torontonians use food banks in the city

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The Daily Bread Food Bank’s 2023 Who’s Hungry report, out Tuesday, paints what CEO Neil Hetherington calls an “obscene” picture in terms of Toronto’s food insecurity crisis.

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This past year, there were 2.53 million client visits to about 150 food banks in Toronto — a 51% increase compared to 2002 — and one in 10 Torontonians are now relying on food banks.

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“It’s beyond the pale,” said Hetherington. “I’m out of words in terms of what the crisis is. During the pandemic, we had gone from 60,000 (users) a month to 120,000 a month. Last month was 275,000. I mean, it’s obscene.”

The study found that after paying rent and utilities, food bank clients have an average of $6.67 left per person, per day for food and all other necessities, down significantly from $8.01 last year.

The report says over 120,000 new individuals started using food bank services for the first time this past year — which is a 154% increase compared to the previous year — and 52% of these new clients have someone in their household who is employed.

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“So the biggest correlation between the rise in use (of the food bank) is inflation,” said Hetherington.

“Those that were on fixed incomes were already coming to the food bank and then the new and fastest growing are individuals who have their income derived from employment and that to me is frightening. We are the canary in the coal mine saying okay, right, now unemployment is at record lows, and this is the very first time, while food bank usage has been high. If our unemployment numbers begin to rise, I can’t image the world of hurt that we’re going to be in.”

Hetherington would like all levels of government to reach out once they see the Who’s Hungry report, to see what they can do policy-wise given the food bank is a charity that relies solely on donations and not government funding.

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“The problem is not going to be solved by the grocery store code of conduct,” he said as one example of what the feds have proposed to lower food prices.

Hetherington is more encouraged by Ottawa passing the Canada Disability Benefit in June “and that offers a glimmer of hope for those who are on disability,” in terms of increasing income.

The report says of the 35% of food bank clients who have a disability, 61% rely on social assistance for income, which leaves them at least $1,000 below the poverty line monthly.

“I’m pleased both the province and the city have aggressive new home targets,” added Hetherington. “If you get affordable housing done right, then you decrease the need for food charity.”

The report says close to 23% of food bank clients spend 100% of their income on housing, leaving no money for other necessities while 31% go a whole day without eating and more than 55% of food bank clients miss a meal to pay for something else.

“Behind every stat is a family or a person,” said Hetherington.


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