There were approximately 1.5 million food bank visits in Toronto in 2021, the highest number ever recorded in the city’s history. 

According to an annual report released by Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest on Monday, Toronto food banks saw visits go up by 47% in 2021 compared to last year. The number of visits in 2021 was 1.5 times higher than the previous record set in 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession. 

For the first time, new clients outnumbered existing clients at food banks with a 61% increase compared to the previous year, according to the report. 

While lockdown measures are easing and the economy is reopening, the report said there are many people living in a state of crisis. 

“These factors created an unstable foundation that compromised the ability of communities to adapt to the realities of the pandemic,” the report said. “COVID-19 has made it clear that our systems and structures were not, and are not, creating the conditions where communities can be resilient.”  

The report claimed 51% of food bank clients in 2021 missed a meal to pay for another expenditure. There were 31% of adults who reported going hungry at least once a week. 16% of children reported being hungry at least once a week. 

According to the report, 36% of clients visited a food bank because their income was too low. There were 20%  of clients who said they visited because they lost their job. And another 10% needed to use the food bank because they were unable to find work and were ineligible for government benefits.  

The poverty line for Toronto is $2,060 per month for a single individual. Among the food bank clients surveyed, the average monthly income was $1,106 per person. 

To address these problems, the report calls on governments to respond to urgent community needs created by COVID-19 by supporting renters and low-income households. 

“Until we address the chronic stressors that are producing and reproducing vast inequalities in our communities, we will never be resilient to future emergencies,” said the report. “Likewise, unless we are quick to respond to the hardships like COVID-19, we will only further entrench inequality into our communities.” 

If you’re interested in supporting Toronto’s food banks, please visit Daily Bread Food Bank’s website for more details.

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