Report: A new report published Monday by the Daily Bread and North York Harvest food banks finds that the total number of new food bank visitors in Toronto over the past year outnumbered existing users for the first time amid rising inequality, soaring unemployment and ongoing underemployment.
The report, titled "Who's Hungry," states: “Food banks are designed to provide emergency food relief, and when COVID-19 hit, we readied ourselves to provide increased levels of service to meet growing community need. But no one could have predicted the magnitude of this crisis.”
Between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, the report finds, Toronto food banks saw 1.45 million visits, representing an unprecedented 47 per cent increase from the year before. The increase is 1.5 times higher than the previous record set in 2010 following the financial crash of 2008.
Fifty-three per cent of food bank visitors last year were female, 54 per cent were single and nearly two-thirds were renters with private landlords. Fifty-one per cent reported having a disability, and 72 per cent were born outside of Canada.
2020-2021 saw a record 61 per cent increase of new food bank visitors, surpassing the number of existing households relying on food banks for the first time, the report states.
The report notes that COVID-19 highlighted injustices and inequalities – including systemic racism, the effects of colonialism on Indigenous peoples, shortages of affordable housing, erosion of secure employment and an insufficient social safety net – that long predate the pandemic.
It states: “While every household has been affected by COVID-19, low-income and racialized communities have been disproportionately impacted by the ongoing economic and health impacts of the pandemic.”
The report also notes that increased food bank use, a symptom of poverty, occurred against a backdrop of rising wealth inequality in Canada during the pandemic, with high-income households – most of them home-owners – enjoying significant wealth accumulation as low-income households continued to struggle.
The report calls for improvements to the social safety net, more affordable housing, better childcare provisions, better healthcare, and improved employment security and protections.