“Horrible” stats with Daily Bread Foodbank visits of 208,000 monthly

Visits well above 60-70,000 per month before the pandemic

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Just five days before Christmas, the most giving holiday of the year, the CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank is once again sounding the alarm.

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Neil Hetherington says food bank visits have now reached “crisis levels” in Toronto and things don’t look much better for 2023.

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“The statistics are horrific,” Hetherington said. “Before the pandemic we were struggling, with about 60-70,000 customer visits per month and now that number is 208,108. And so something is fundamentally broken if 208,000 visits are the new norm for (203) food banks (in our city). Our prediction is that by June (2023) we will be a quarter of a million Torontonians needing to use the food bank each month.

The previous record for Daily Bread’s food banks, all donor supported, was 188,900 visits the previous month in October, while new food bank customers (accessing food bank services for the first time) will reach more than 80,000 by the end of December.

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“Actually, about 9,000 new customers came to the food bank for the first time each month,” says Hetherington.

“People with jobs – that has doubled. The number of persons with a full-time job has therefore increased from 16% of food bank users to 33% of food bank users (from March 2021 to March 2022).”

Hetherington said they even added 22 new food banks during the pandemic that they thought would be temporary but are now permanent.

“Our food production has increased from 30,000 pounds a day (in 2019) to 120,000 pounds a day (now),” he said. “Before the pandemic, we spent $1.5 million a year buying food. That number this year is $18 million. This is how much it will cost us to feed the city.”

He put together three years of the pandemic, inflation, lack of affordable housing and low wages for full-time jobs to create the perfect storm.

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Hetherington says that after paying rent, food bank customers are left with an average of $8.01 per person per day for food and other necessities.

“Someone with a disability gets $1,229 a month (in Ontario) and the poverty line is $2,100 a month,” Hetherington said.

“So we have legislated that anyone who cannot work must live in poverty. They are underwater about $900 a month.”

Hetherington adds that one in five food bank users pay 100% of their income in rent and are “entirely dependent” on others for food and supplies.

The solution?

According to him, more affordable housing, inflationary income support for people with disabilities (the county has increased this by 5% this year), and improving Toronto’s cost of living with things like $10 daily childcare, which was recently introduced.

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