Hunger in the GTA: How to Improve Food Security in Toronto [Part 1]

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Staff at Meal Exchange have been reviewing the Daily Bread Food Bank, “Who’s Hungry – A Tale of Three Cities” which profiles hunger in the city of Toronto and surrounding areas known as the GTA. As an organization with a national office based in Toronto, this report shines a spotlight on an area of Canada that many at Meal Exchange consider home.

Over the past week I’ve had the opportunity to read through this report and supplement my learning by attending a full day event hosted by Change Toronto entitled, “Hunger in Toronto - How to Improve Food Security” which saw a number of respected Food Security leaders speak to the growing issues of hunger in Toronto. Setting the tone for the event was keynote speaker Professor Valerie Tarasuk of the PROOF network who spoke to recent findings from local-based research studies done on household food insecurity in Ontario and the city of Toronto.

Who’s Hungry – A Tale of Three Cities

A Tale of Three Cities is a report that does not shy away from the fact that focusing on Food Bank usage as a means to measure hunger in the GTA is representative of only a portion of the population that is actually experiencing it. The report expresses a clear purpose which is to go beyond the numbers and begin understanding who needs to access food banks and why.The results may not paint the entire picture of hunger, but they do provide insight into overarching issues of an economic and social divide among citizens in the GTA.

Here are a few highlights that help drive the report:

  • 1.1 million people visited a food bank in the GTA between April 2012 - March 2013
  • Areas outside the city core (905 and inner suburban areas) are seeing increases in food bank usage. The trend of poverty moving outwards from the city center is attributed to –
    • A decrease in average income of over 20% throughout inner suburbs 1970-2005
    • The gentrification of neighborhoods
    • A decrease in affordable housing downtown and more affordable rental option in outlying areas
  • More women are accessing food banks compared to 2008 before the recession. There is a 4% spike in 45-64 year olds since 2008 and an increase of 3% for both post-secondary students and graduates.
  • People go hungry typically due to lack of money. In today's society, spending 30% of income on rent and utilities is considered affordable. Food bank users on average spend 73% of income on rent.
  • Neither "Ontario Works" nor "Ontario Disability Support Program" are indexed to the cost of living. In 1995, welfare rates were cut by 21.5% and only raised in small increments since. To bring the income of a single person receiving social assistance back to where it was before and indexed to inflation would require a 60% increase in social assistance rates.

The stigmas attached to food bank users are being proven extremely inaccurate. These are diverse groups of people who find themselves in similar situations - people transition to a new country, an aging demographic contending with disabilities or illness, people simply struggling with the rising costs of basic needs regardless of whether their income comes from social assistance or from employment.

Ultimately, what this report is calling for is an income security system that helps people pay rent and buy food no matter the state of economic system. This is an extremely important ask, as poverty and hunger are two issues that are so closely related.

Join us tomorrow for the second half of this series on Hunger and Food Security in the GTA, which features Greg’s comments on the recent event hosted by Change Toronto, “Hunger in Toronto - How to Improve Food Security”

Tagged in: GTA Hunger Statistics

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Guest Monday, 23 October 2017