toronto food bank

Nearly 12 times more people in Toronto are asking for help with food security right now

As social distancing and partial lockdown under a state of emergency in Toronto continues, many residents are trying to get by without work or pay.

Though the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Employment Insurance have helped out millions of Canadians thus far, some are still ineligible for assistance programs and in increasingly precarious financial situations due to the pandemic — so much so that more and more are wondering how they'll be able to secure groceries.

In Toronto, 211 has been seeing a massive increase in daily call volumes — up 112 per cent from February to April — particularly ones pertaining to food insecurity.

The issue used to be seventh on the list of reasons people reached out to the community and social services helpline, and is now number one, according to new data from the Toronto Foundation.

Between April 1 and April 8, 2020, 211 made 2,726 referrals to food banks in the city, which is six times more than during the same time period last year. There were also 1,644 calls about grocery ordering and delivery — a staggering 38 times more than in the same week of 2019.

Calls relating to food issues during the same week were up 11.7 times more than just a few weeks earlier in February, with such a surge that some food banks have recently been forced to shutter (though thankfully, a few others have been organized to take their place).

The foundation analyzed statistics on calls and texts to 211 to paint a picture of the growing problem in the city, also looking at broader data from other other studies, like those recently conducted the Angus Reid Institute.

One survey from the not-for-profit group found that approximately one in three Canadians who have experienced loss of work due to the health crisis say they could not even manage an unexpected expense of just $100 right now if they had to.

As Toronto food banks and centres that provide free meals to the public see the need for their services rising exponentially, they are calling for donations of food or funds from the community to be able to continue to service the city's most vulnerable populations.

It seems that some Torontonians have found their own innovative ways to help one another, too, like setting up their own local pop-up food banks.

Lead photo by

Daily Bread Food Bank


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