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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Report details disturbing increase of food insecurity in Toronto

Among the findings of the Daily Bread Food Bank's report are a 200% increase in new clients and that 28% of clients received the CERB but they were still unable to afford basic necessities.

The Daily Bread Food Bank has released a truly alarming report about the devastating impact that the coronavirus and its economic impact have had on food insecurity in Toronto.

Hunger Lives Here: Risks and Challenges Faced by Food Bank Clients During COVID-19 reveals, among many other disturbing findings, that food bank use by new clients in the city is up by 200 per cent.

Based on a survey of 220 food bank clients during May and June 2020 the report's key findings are:

Visits to food banks in Toronto have increased 25% during COVID-19.

  • Daily Bread member food banks are now serving close to 20,000 individuals each week, compared to 15,000 before COVID-19.

  • The rate of new clients has increased by over 200% during COVID-19 (6,100 new clients began accessing food banks in June, compared to 2,000 in February).

  • 76% of new client surveyed began accessing food banks due to COVID-19.

The severity of food insecurity has increased during COVID-19.

  • Prior to COVID-19, one in four survey respondents reported not eating for an entire day because they did not have enough money for food. During COVID-19, the frequency of going a full day without eating almost every month increased from 56% to 67%.

  • Before COVID-19, one in four children accessing food banks went hungry according to their guardian, and during the pandemic this increased to one in three.

  • The number of respondents moderately or severely stressed or anxious about having enough food to feed their household has tripled during COVID-19.

COVID-19 has transformed the way low-income households access food.

  • 91% of respondents identified at least one restriction to grocery shopping during the pandemic, with the most common challenges being:

  • Inability to shop around due to public health guidance to limit trips (33%)

  • Food products being limited or unavailable (over 25%), and

  • Reduced of access to discounted items due to lack of flyers (15%)

Food bank clients are at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19 and for severe

illness/complications from the virus.

  • 51% of food bank respondents are high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to being over the age of 60 or having an underlying health condition, close to double the rate of the Canadian population as a whole.

  • One quarter of respondents continued to work during the pandemic, and the majority (58.9%) were in occupations facing highest COVID-19 cases (e.g., sales, trades and transport, manufacturing and utilities).

While government income supports have helped many households make ends meet, many are still unable to afford food.

  • 32% of respondents had at least one member of the household working prior to COVID-19, and 76% of these households reported job loss.

  • 28% of current food bank clients received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), but they will still unable to afford their basic necessities.

  • For the two in three respondents on social assistance who received emergency benefits, the extra $100 - $200 was not enough to prevent them from relying on food banks during COVID-19.

  • 34% of food bank clients will be unable to continue to pay rent four to six months from now.

  • Due to income loses, the proportion of respondents paying 50% or more of their income on housing rose from 67% pre-COVID-19 to 81% during the pandemic.

These findings show very clearly the need to enhance benefits and social security in this exceptionally challenging time despite efforts by the right and business interests to eliminate the obviously inadequate CERB.

Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank notes:

Much of Toronto's population was already struggling financially before the pandemic. With food bank clients unable to pay rent four to six months from now, there is a major risk of a tidal wave of arrears and evictions in our city.

This would be in addition to those already facing more immediate eviction with the passage of Bill 184.

The report itself recommends:

1) Prioritizing and enhancing income supports including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and social assistance;
2) Building and protecting affordable housing; and
3) Improving health benefits for people living and working in Ontario.
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