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Toronto food banks see record high visits during COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Toronto food banks see record number of visitors' Toronto food banks see record number of visitors
WATCH ABOVE: A new study paints a grim picture when it comes to food insecurity in Canada’s largest city. Shallima Maharaj has the details. – Nov 15, 2021

Toronto food banks received a record number of visitors during the pandemic, according to a new report from the Daily Bread and North York Harvest food banks.

The 2021 “Who’s Hungry” survey found that between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, there were 1.45 million visits to city food banks.

That marks the highest number of visits ever recorded, and an increase of 47 per cent versus the year prior.

In the report, authors call the level of growth “unprecedented,” noting food bank visits in Canada’s most populous city rarely go up by more than five to 10 per cent year-over-year.

Read more: Food bank use in Canada climbed 20% during pandemic, report shows

One significant exception was in 2010, when the number increased by 14 per cent, following a period of financial crisis.

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“For some of us, it feels like normal is returning,” said Talia Bronstein, report author and vice-president, research and advocacy at the Daily Bread Food Bank.

“Things are opening up, pandemic restrictions are lifting, but for many, that’s just not the case. It’s still a time of crisis.”

The report also found that food bank clients spend a median of 68 per cent of their income on housing, placing them at greater risk of homelessness.

Click to play video: 'Food Banks Canada releases HungerCount 2021' Food Banks Canada releases HungerCount 2021
Food Banks Canada releases HungerCount 2021 – Oct 28, 2021

“We don’t know what the future will hold, but there’s almost guaranteed to be another crisis in our future,” said Bronstein.

“We have to ask ourselves: are we going to be prepared? And I think what this pandemic has shown us, is that we really weren’t, and that’s why we need to make investments to build resiliency in communities.”

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According to the survey, for the first time, new food bank clients outnumbered existing ones.

Toronto Mayor John Tory referred to housing as a key economic issue for the city during a Monday news conference.

“In the end, you will reduce the number of people who have to rely on food banks if we have more affordable housing,” he told reporters.

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