'Troubling' new numbers show food bank use on the rise in Toronto, Mississauga


A new report says food bank use rose four per cent in the Greater Toronto Area in the last fiscal year and the number of visits from people who live in Mississauga and the inner suburbs of Toronto is growing.

There was a 16 per cent increase in food bank visits from Mississauga residents, a nine per cent increase from North York residents and an eight per cent increase in Scarborough residents.

Among people who live in central Toronto, food bank visits have decreased 11 per cent, but the report says this area continues to have the "highest concentration" of visits in the region.

In the report, "Who's Hungry: Profile of Hunger in the Toronto Region," the Daily Bread Food, the North York Harvest Food Bank and the Mississauga Food Bank say there were more than one million visits to food banks in the region between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

"These staggering numbers tell us that the right to food is not being realized in our communities. This is particularly true for low-income neighbourhoods and for people who are racialized, Indigenous or living with a disability," the report reads.

Hunger a symptom of poverty, report says

The report says hunger is a symptom of poverty and the increase in food bank visits in the last fiscal year, compared to the previous fiscal year, shows that food insecurity is growing in the Toronto region at double the rate of population growth.

"As poverty continues to soar and the hunger crisis worsens, our government bodies must do more to meet their legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food. We cannot stand still as thousands of families and individuals across the city skip meals to feed their children or pay their rent," the report says.

Food Bank CEO says costs are rising but incomes are not

Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, said in an interview with CBC Toronto that food insecurity is an income issue. The report defines food insecurity as people or households unable to access the food they need because they cannot afford basic necessities.

"Incomes are not rising the way they ought to, individuals are in precarious employment, and the costs are rising and the study shows that and what individuals are paying on rent," Hetherington said.

"There's a growing divide between those who have and those who do not have. Those who are experiencing poverty are getting further away from being able to make ends meet," he added. 

"We didn't add operating hours. We didn't add food banks over the course of the year. It's a real number. It's troubling. Things were better this year economically than they were the year before. The balance sheet isn't adding up. Individuals are making less in real dollar terms and their costs are increasing."

Housing is at the core of an individual experiencing poverty, he added.