Between Paying Rent or Eating: Food Banks Overwhelmed with Demands

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Between paying rent and eating: food banks are overwhelmed with requests

Since the start of the pandemic, demand at many food banks in the Greater Toronto Area has been steadily increasing.

As prices continue to rise in Toronto and elsewhere, food banks are stepping up their efforts to provide meals to more and more people who are struggling to make ends meet. While Thanksgiving sparks an outpouring of generosity, needs exist throughout the year.

The Scott Mission organization has been preparing Thanksgiving for days. It must be said that like every year, many baskets with food must be given to members in need.

Scott Mission ministry director Jonathan Miller sees some more and more.

That's up 28% over the past season for the number of people using the food bank and 47% for those taking hot meals, he says.

Scott Mission ministry director Jonathan Miller notes that some people are sometimes forced to skip meals in order to pay their rent.

The vice-president of the Daily Bread food bank, Diane Dyson, makes the same observation. She observes that the number of people using her organization's services has tripled since the start of the pandemic.

That's 180,000 visits per month now, she explains .

Daily Bread's network covers 130 agencies spread across Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York and Toronto, so the number of applicants is substantial.

< p class="e-p">Even the smallest structures such as the food bank of the Association of Ivorians in the Toronto region are aware of this.

Initially, we fed about sixty families a month and then there we have reached almost 200 families this year, explains Carole Gballou, president of the association based in Mississauga.

What amazes these food bank managers even more is the change in the type of people who come to see them. A sign of the times and the rising cost of living, it is no longer just people living in poverty who come to get supplies from food banks.

The average is three people per family, explains Carole Gballou. We have a lot of single-parent families. We have single mothers and recently we have young immigrant students living alone.

The situation is such that many post-secondary institutions now have their own food bank.

Seniors are also greatly represented.

More than 50% of people who come to the food bank daily are people over 60 on fixed incomes, finds Jonathan Miller of Scott Mission.

Many food bank users indeed have income, but they are no longer enough to fill the refrigerator.

Most work, except that groceries have become so expensive that they are no longer able to buy milk, vegetables, fish, meat. Meat, they come to get it from us because it's out of reach now, testifies Carole Gballou.

Faced with this reality, his food bank no longer makes any distinction in the profiles and doesn't even ask for proof of income.

“There are families coming that we didn't expect to see here. When we ask them what they tell us, the money went for gas, rent. Everything is expensive now so we are not even able to buy food. »

— Carole Gballou, President of the Association of Ivorians of the Toronto Region

Another expense also hurts the wallet, particularly in Toronto, it is the constantly increasing cost of housing.

It is very hard to find accommodation. Sometimes people find themselves having to choose between paying their rent or their groceries, recognizes Jonathan Miller.

The pressure is therefore great on food banks in the Greater Toronto Area. This is not only a matter of food cost, but also of pressure on volunteers.

Turnover of volunteers is a problem. They are tired, older, admits the vice-president of the Daily Bread food bank, Diane Dyson.

Vice President of the Daily Bread food bank, Diane Dyson, observes that the greatest demand is for proteins, cereals for breakfast or formula milk.

While events like the big Thanksgiving food sorting event on Saturday attract occasional, albeit regular, volunteers, the need exists throughout the year.

The queues have become endless and there is an increasing need for volunteers, underlines Carole Gballou. Her association will now supply people as far as Scarborough or even Milton.

She adds that she does not have a recruitment strategy at the moment, but that it will be greatly needed in the near future. .

That said, if there is one thing that reassures them at the moment, it is that generosity is there.

The people of Toronto are generous and answer us when we need it. We hope it continues. We know that with economic crises it is a challenge. There will come a time when people will no longer be able to do this. It scares me, concludes Diane Dyson.

With information from Mirna Djukic and CBC

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