daily bread food bank

This is how many more people have been relying on food banks in Toronto during the pandemic

Food insecurity was an issue that many Torontonians dealt with on a daily basis before the pandemic hit but a new report from the Daily Bread Food Bank shows that the public health crisis has drastically exacerbated the problem. 

The comprehensive report, titled Hunger Lives Here: Risks and Challenges Faced by Food Bank Clients During COVID-19, suggests there has been a 200 per cent increase in new clients accessing food banks in Toronto during the pandemic, and Daily Bread member food banks are now serving close to 20,000 individuals each week, compared to 15,000 before COVID-19. 

"The report illustrates the heightened health risks faced by food bank clients during COVID-19 and the extensive risks and challenges they experienced accessing adequate food during the pandemic," reads an excerpt from the key findings of the study

"The report is also a predictor of a new wave of issues that will be faced by individuals living in poverty, such as the risk of mass evictions, if Canada's social safety net does not keep pace with the rise in need."

The report was compiled based on phone surveys with more than 220 food bank clients in May and June 2020 and an analysis of food bank client intake data and it found that 6,100 new clients began accessing food banks in June, compared to 2,000 in February. 

Of those new clients, 76 per cent of those surveyed began accessing food banks due to COVID-19. 

And while the report makes it clear that visits to food banks in Toronto have significantly increased (25 per cent) during the pandemic, it also indicates that the severity of food insecurity has worsened. 

Before the health crisis began, one in four survey respondents reported not eating for an entire day because they did not have enough money for food. But once COVID-19 hit, the frequency of respondents going a full day without eating almost every month increased from 56 per cent to 67 per cent. 

Children, in particular, have been majorly affected, with one in four children who access food banks going hungry pre-COVID-19 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," notes the report. 

The increase in food insecurity appears to be caused by several factors, including restrictions to grocery shopping due to health and safety issues and the fact that many food bank clients are at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19 and severe illness/complications from the virus. 

Loss of income is also a major contributor. And while government subsidies have helped many make ends meet, according to the report, the proportion of respondents paying 50 per cent or more of their income on housing rose from 67 per cent pre-COVID-19 to 81 per cent during the pandemic.

"The economic impacts of COVID-19 will be experienced for years to come," the report states. "As the government's state of emergency ends, many of our residents will remain in emergency situations and will continue to require supports."

As a result, Daily Bread is calling on all levels of government to take three steps to "make poverty reduction a priority in economic recovery and ongoing COVID-19 response," including prioritizing and enhancing income supports including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and social assistance, building and protecting affordable housing, and improving health benefits for people living and working in Ontario.

"Respondents spoke about being 'squeezed' and 'holding on' while waiting for a better future," the report states. 

"We cannot keep them waiting. As government begins to re-open the economy, it is critical that addressing inequities and securing pathways out of poverty are top priorities."

Lead photo by

Daily Bread Food Bank

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