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

Food banks in Canada have seen a significant surge in visits all through the COVID-19 pandemic, a brand new report says, with the excessive cost of living and ongoing financial disruption threatening to create numerous new purchasers in the months forward. 

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

“We’re seeing high food prices, we’re seeing high housing prices, we’re seeing an anticipated pullback of government and we’re seeing high unemployment continuing through the COVID pandemic,” stated David Armour, CEO of Food Banks Canada. 

“With all of these factors, we’re seeing … a really high increase in demand and food banks are bracing for a significant increase in the months to come.”

The report highlights how the pandemic has exacerbated starvation in Canada, and advocates are now calling for a significant overhaul of the nation’s social security internet to cut back poverty and meals insecurity.

Strain 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 contrast to March 2019, which is the sharpest rise for the reason that 2008 financial recession. (Food Banks Canada says it constantly makes use of March for comparisons as a result of it’s an “unexceptional month, without predictable high- or low-use patterns.”)

Food banks in giant cities like Toronto had been particularly strained, with over 1 / 4 seeing their utilization more than double in contrast to earlier years. 

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

Meanwhile, it stated meals banks in smaller city centres had been more seemingly to see folks with disabilities and older people trying for meals.

“Much of the increase can be attributed to a greater number of people requiring more frequent visits to the food bank because of the combined impacts of low income and rapidly rising costs of living,” the report learn.

Neil Hetherington, Daily Bread’s CEO, stated Toronto meals banks had been dealing with a crisis state of affairs even earlier than the pandemic and that higher social insurance policies are wanted to guarantee these numbers do not proceed. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

‘Unprecedented enhance’ 

Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank in Etobicoke, stated Toronto meals banks noticed a good more dramatic enhance in visits than the nationwide common, with 50 per cent more folks in want of meals help than earlier than the pandemic. 

He stated that is the primary yr that there can be more more first-time meals financial institution customers in the town than repeat customers.

“It is the largest, most unprecedented increase in food bank usage that we’ve seen both in Toronto and across the country,” Hetherington stated.

“There are a lot of new faces to the Toronto food banks and it just speaks to the lack of resiliency that there is in the community, the lack of affordable housing and the lack of decent employment.” 

Food Banks Canada says authorities packages that supplied earnings and housing help to people who misplaced their jobs or had their hours diminished when the pandemic struck had been useful in “flattening the curve” of meals financial institution visits, and sure prevented even more folks from requiring the companies of meals banks. 

But most of these packages have now been eradicated, are in the method of being wound down or have been modified to present more focused help.

Improve social security internet, CEO says

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

“Our social safety net is broken,” he stated. “And as we come out of the pandemic, as we shift our funding and shift our government attention, we really need to build and modernize a better safety net.”

The report calls for the next measures to assist cut back poverty and, together with it, meals insecurity:

  • New help for low-income renters.
  • Increase help for low-wage and unemployed staff, primarily by modernizing the employment insurance coverage (EI) program.
  • Consider insurance policies that will set up a “minimum income floor” for all staff.
  • Increase helps for low-income single adults.
  • Enhance measures to cut back meals insecurity in the North.

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