Food insecurity leading to record numbers at Canadian, local food banks this Thanksgiving
Local food banks say they expect a record number of people through their doors this holiday weekend, as rising prices at the grocery store push more people into food insecurity.
The Daily Bread Food Bank, one of the largest food banks in Canada, welcomed nearly 200 volunteers back in person on Saturday for a public food sort for the first time since the pandemic began. CEO Neil Hetherington says more help is needed this year as the rising cost of food sends more people to local food banks.
“We have seen pre-pandemic about 60,000 clients coming per month, now that number is 180,000 per month coming to the Daily Bread Food Bank and food banks all across the city. This is incredibly important,” Hetherington told CityNews.
“It’s about taking the food donated at fire halls or grocery stores, sorting it, and making sure it goes back to the community to individuals who need it. We want to sort about 24,000 pounds of food, but here’s the sad statistic: we are now sending out 110,000 pounds of food daily to Toronto.”
Hetherington says visits have tripled since the pandemic began.
“We’re hit on two fronts. Food inflation is happening at 10.9 per cent across the country, and as that happens, more and more people need to turn to a food bank,” the CEO added.
“It means food banks have to purchase more food.”
New year could see over 220,000 clients, Daily Bread Food Bank CEO says
Monetary donations to daily bread go toward purchasing food. Hetherington says they bought around $1.5 million worth of food before the pandemic, but that number is now about $13 million yearly.
“Unfortunately, we forecast that in March 2023, we will see close to 225,000 client visits in that single month alone,” says Hetherington.
He says Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and reflect on our values and how we can translate them into an outward action of giving.
If you want to help, you can donate to the Daily Bread Food Bank online at dailybread.ca or drop off food donations 24/7 at any fire station across the city. Experts say it’s crucial to reach out to elected officials and call for change on both provincial and federal levels.
“There are things that can be done at the provincial and federal levels to manage this problem. The community is doing more than enough,” says Valerie Tarasuk, the lead investigator at PROOF, a research program that studies food insecurity in Canada. ”
“It’s not going to move the needle on this problem. To do that, we need to get upstream; we’ve got to look to the people we’ve elected.”
Tarasuk acknowledged food banks are the public face of the problem.
“We need to think of them as the canary in the coal mine,” she said. “We’ve seen over and over again that the number of people using food banks is maybe a quarter or a fifth of the true number of people that are food insecure.”
Food insecurity likely means people struggling in other regards
Food insecurity can be anywhere from worrying about having money to buy food, compromising food quality, or not eating enough by cutting the size of meals or skipping them together.
“To have those prices steadily rising while people on social assistance in Ontario; their incomes are stationary,” Tarasuk said.
“They are not rising. They are not indexed to inflation. The most that will happen is a 5 per cent increase for people on disability and nothing for people on Ontario Works.”
Tarasuk says if someone is struggling to put food on the table, they are likely struggling in more areas, including rent and other bills.
“I think for someone who’s been living on the margins, who’s been struggling to make ends meet as it is, I think that weekends like this one must be very tough.”
Experts say this problem is expected to worsen as we move into the colder months, with people having to spend more on heating their homes, warm clothes, and back-to-school costs.