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Rising food costs driving more Canadians to food banks

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TORONTO -

In some cities, visits to food banks have nearly tripled as the rising cost of groceries continues to take a toll on Canadians, says Daily Bread Food Bank Toronto CEO Neil Hetherington.

Toronto food banks have reported an increase to 160,000 client visits per month, in comparison to 60,000 before the pandemic. Hetherington tells CTV’s Your Morning these visits will only continue to grow.

“We expect that number to rise to about 225,000 client visits per month. People are in need in the city, and we need to do something about it,” he said on Tuesday.

Food banks in Charlottetown and Calgary have also seen an increase in visits, including the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry in P.E.I. that’s reporting a 60 per cent spike in clients since April 2021.

The Calgary Food bank said, of the 9,500 people who were sent food hamper deliveries in April, 75 per cent of them were new clients.

Statistics Canada’s April report found food prices have seen a 9.7 per cent increase in grocery stores since April 2021. Additionally, the current inflation rate sits at 6.8 per cent, marking the highest rate reported in three decades.

While local community members continue to send donations, it still isn’t enough to minimize the lineups outside food banks, Hetherington said. Affordable housing and a steady income are among the essential components in tackling Canada’s food insecurity, he explained.

“We committed as a country that we would reduce poverty by 50 per cent by 2030. We're not on track to be able to do that and this inflation has exacerbated that situation,” he said.

In March, the Daily Bread Food Bank and the University of Calgary conducted a study that determined a 53 per cent increase in visits to Toronto food banks between January 2014 and March 2020 were driven by factors including rent increases and reductions in disability benefits.

In Ontario, social assistance provides residents with about $1,100 a month, however Hetherington says an increase of just $15 monthly could translate to 56,000 fewer visits to food banks in the city.

“We know the answers to these social problems. We know the levers to pull. We know the impact that they're going to have. We just need to have the political will and courage and leadership to be able to make that difference,” he said.  

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