Access to food is a human right, but if poverty exists, food insecurity will, too.
One thing that was made clear by the latest alarming report from two Toronto food banks on the state of hunger in the city was that the challenge of alleviating a rising food crisis would not be solved by simply donating more tinned goods and boxes of pasta to the community kitchens.
If you find yourself hungry, food banks are a blessing for everyone who needs food to survive in this crazy world we live in.
According to the latest Who’s Hungry report by the Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank, the increasing number of people overwhelmed at the challenge of putting food on the table is critical and getting worse.
More people than ever before rely on food banks to survive – including increasing numbers holding down jobs but earning too little to sustain their families.
For the first time, new clients outnumbered existing clients, say the food banks.
The COVID-19 pandemic deepened the problem. There are fears for what happens when pandemic assistance programs are phased out — a step that will occur even as the cost-of-living surges by levels not seen in 20 years.
In last year’s report, Who’s Hungry predicted: “we could see up to 1.4 million food bank visits in Toronto in the coming year.” It saw 1.45 million — far more than in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
According to Nancy Nieboer, North County Interfaith Food Bank manager in Picture Butte, there are a few more recipients of the services provided by the food bank.
“The community has been very well in supporting us yet, so we haven’t been fearful of not being able to give food out. That part is nice,” said Nieboer recently.
These factors include deepening income and wealth disparities; job losses and precarious employment; the erosion of permanent, secure employment; systemic racism and discrimination; an inadequate social safety net; and the increased cost of living.
Who’s Hungry called for systemic change to address precarious employment, improve income supports such as Employment Insurance and social assistance, invest in affordable childcare, improve digital access, and make housing more affordable.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was undoubtedly a shock,” Who’s Hungry said. “But it will not be the last emergency we face as a city. All levels of government must make tackling poverty and food insecurity a top priority.”