Food banks, already in crisis mode due to pandemic, are bracing for more visits as cost of living rises | CBC News

Meals banks in Canada have seen a serious surge in visits all through the COVID-19 pandemic, a brand new report says, with the excessive price of residing and ongoing financial disruption threatening to create numerous new shoppers within the months forward. 

The findings are contained within the newly-released HungerCount 2021 report from Meals Banks Canada, which surveyed virtually all of Canada’s 4,750-plus meals banks and neighborhood organizations. It is the primary complete have a look at meals financial institution utilization throughout the nation since earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re seeing excessive meals costs, we’re seeing excessive housing costs, we’re seeing an anticipated pullback of presidency and we’re seeing excessive unemployment persevering with by the COVID pandemic,” stated David Armour, CEO of Meals Banks Canada. 

“With all of those components, we’re seeing … a extremely excessive enhance in demand and meals banks are bracing for a major enhance within the months to come back.”

The report highlights how the pandemic has exacerbated starvation in Canada, and advocates at the moment are calling for a serious overhaul of the nation’s social security web to scale back poverty and meals insecurity.

Pressure particularly felt in giant cities

The report says Canadians made 1.3 million visits to meals banks in March 2021, a 20.3 per cent enhance in comparison with March 2019, which is the sharpest rise for the reason that 2008 financial recession. (Meals Banks Canada says it constantly makes use of March for comparisons as a result of it’s an “unexceptional month, with out predictable high- or low-use patterns.”)

Meals banks in giant cities like Toronto had been particularly strained, with over 1 / 4 seeing their utilization greater than double in comparison with earlier years. 

Most who visited did so on account of pandemic-related unemployment, the report says, with folks from racialized communities making up a big proportion.

In the meantime, it stated meals banks in smaller city centres had been extra more likely to see folks with disabilities and older people in search of meals.

“A lot of the rise could be attributed to a higher variety of folks requiring extra frequent visits to the meals financial institution due to the mixed impacts of low revenue and quickly rising prices of residing,” the report learn.

Neil Hetherington, Each day Bread’s CEO, stated Toronto meals banks had been going through a disaster scenario even earlier than the pandemic and that higher social insurance policies are wanted to make sure these numbers do not proceed. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

‘Unprecedented enhance’ 

Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Each day Bread Meals Financial institution in Etobicoke, stated Toronto meals banks noticed an much more dramatic enhance in visits than the nationwide common, with 50 per cent extra folks in want of meals assist than earlier than the pandemic. 

He stated that is the primary yr that there will probably be extra first-time meals financial institution customers within the metropolis than repeat customers.

“It’s the largest, most unprecedented enhance in meals financial institution utilization that we have seen each in Toronto and throughout the nation,” Hetherington stated.

“There are numerous new faces to the Toronto meals banks and it simply speaks to the dearth of resiliency that there’s in the neighborhood, the dearth of reasonably priced housing and the dearth of respectable employment.” 

Meals Banks Canada says authorities packages that offered revenue and housing assist to people who misplaced their jobs or had their hours decreased when the pandemic struck had been useful in “flattening the curve” of meals financial institution visits, and sure prevented much more folks from requiring the companies of meals banks. 

However most of these packages have now been eradicated, are within the technique of being wound down or have been modified to offer extra focused assist.

WATCH | Toronto mother makes use of coupons, gross sales to chop prices:

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This Toronto mom of six makes use of coupons and gross sales to chop prices on her household’s grocery payments. 0:15

Enhance social security web, CEO says

Armour, the CEO of Meals Banks Canada, stated governments ought to take this chance to enhance current social insurance policies that concentrate on the foundation causes of meals insecurity — primarily low-incomes, unemployment, housing prices and poverty.

“Our social security web is damaged,” he stated. “And as we come out of the pandemic, as we shift our funding and shift our authorities consideration, we actually must construct and modernize a greater security web.”

The report requires the next measures to assist scale back poverty and, together with it, meals insecurity:

  • New assist for low-income renters.
  • Enhance assist for low-wage and unemployed staff, primarily by modernizing the employment insurance coverage (EI) program.
  • Take into account insurance policies that will set up a “minimal revenue ground” for all staff.
  • Enhance helps for low-income single adults.
  • Improve measures to scale back meals insecurity within the North.

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