A Toronto food bank is making an urgent appeal, after it saw a stark jump in the number of clients accessing its services.
Daily Bread Food Bank says more than 274,000 visits were made to its 128 member food banks in August alone, double the number of visits in the same time last year.
“To put things in perspective, before the pandemic, we were seeing around 65,000 visits per month … so visits have even quadrupled since then,” said Talia Bronstein, vice-president of research and advocacy at Daily Bread Food Bank.
As we head to Thanksgiving season, the food bank is making a plea to help raise $3.8 million and 227,000 pounds of food by the end of October.
“We really hope we would never have to turn anyone away, because food is a human right,” said Bronstein.
It appears pangs of hunger are being felt across the country this year.
The CEO of Food Banks Canada says not a single region from throughout the country has seen a decline or stagnation in food insecurity, with 1.5 million visits being made to food banks across the country each month.
“We keep sounding this alarm saying we are at the highest level of food bank use in our history in Canada and we keep breaking that record,” said Kirsten Beardsley.
“This is not a record to celebrate.”
While many have put the COVID-19 pandemic behind them, Beardsley says the problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic never went away.
“Its a good reminder to folks that food insecurity really isn’t about food. It’s about money,” she said.
“What we’re seeing is folks right now really struggling to make ends meet. We’ve got folks with low incomes, we’ve got folks on social assistance, on disability supports. But on the other side of the equation which is really driving up the need right now, we’ve got high costs.”
Beardsley stresses that solutions have to come from addressing the root causes of food insecurity — by having governments take action on affordable housing, and fixing the “outdated” employment insurance system.
Until then, Beardsley says food banks remain a pivotal safety net that keeps hundreds of thousands from going hungry.
Back in Toronto, Daily Bread Food Bank is gearing up for holiday hunger.
On Thursday, representatives gathered at Toronto Fire Station 426 to launch Daily Bread’s annual thanksgiving drive, in partnership with Purolator.
Purolator will be bringing back its Toronto Red Bags campaign, distributing 25,000 bags to 10 neighbourhoods this Saturday.
Residents are encouraged to fill the bags with non-perishable food items and drop them off at any fire hall in the city, or wait for them to be picked up from their doorsteps on Sept. 30.
Monetary donations can also be made on Daily Bread’s website.