The annual “Who’s Hungry” report, released by Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest, took a decade-long snapshot of increasing hunger in the city — reporting an overall 14 per cent increase in food bank visits since the recession of 2008.
The report pointed the finger at a lack of income growth for the steady spike — blaming among other pressures, soaring rents, energy and childcare costs as well as a widening gap between social assistance rates and inflation.
“Housing has increased, rent has increased and it’s just becoming a lot less affordable to live in the city,” said Sarah Kiriliuk, director of communications at the Daily Bread Food Bank. “Add to that, social supports have not kept up with inflation over the years and this leaves less money in a family’s pocket to put food on the table.”
Next week, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government is expected to announce plans to reform the province’s social assistance system. The proposed overhaul has raised questions about what the changes could mean for Toronto’s food banks.
On Wednesday, leaders of the food bank report took their concerns to Queen’s Park with the hope that the report’s findings might be enough to sway decision-makers.
According to the report, last year alone saw 914,000 people visit food banks in the city, a trend that has been consistent over the years with client visits hovering near the one million mark since 2013.
The report found that the majority of those clients, 37 per cent, are aged 45 or above — a stark difference from a decade ago, when the majority of users were between 19 and 44 years old.
Ryan Noble, executive director of North York Harvest, said that in Toronto “the face of hunger is changing.”
“We’re seeing more seniors turning to us for help,” Noble said in a release. “And while food banks are doing what they can to service those who need them, the fact of the matter is, it’s still hard for those clients to keep up with the rising cost of living.”
It is that “rising cost of living” that Kiriliuk hopes the government will consider.
“Food insecurity is one piece of a large puzzle that includes housing, social assistance, price of foods at grocery stores, labour workforce opportunities and precarious employment,” Kiriliuk said. “There isn’t a silver bullet that will help us see a massive decrease unless all of those things are addressed holistically.”