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Daily Bread food banks see record 300k visits in February

Nearly 200 Daily Bread volunteers sorted roughly 60,000 pounds of food Saturday. The charity says it's moving about 250,000 pounds of food every day to programs around the GTA. (CBC - image credit)
Nearly 200 Daily Bread volunteers sorted roughly 60,000 pounds of food Saturday. The charity says it's moving about 250,000 pounds of food every day to programs around the GTA. (CBC - image credit)

With many families gathering for Easter dinner across the GTA this weekend, more people than ever may be relying on Toronto food banks to get them through the holiday.

Last month, Daily Bread Food Bank had over 300,000 client visits at its 200-plus programs across Toronto. That's a 40 per cent increase from this time last year, and a 136 per cent increase from February 2022,  according to the charity.

"We surpassed a milestone we never thought was possible," said Daily Bread CEO Neil Hetherington.

Food bank use across the GTA has been rising steadily since the pandemic, with roughly one in 10 Torontonians now relying on them.

"What's new is that there are individuals who have an income, who are working, who are cobbling together two or three-part time jobs and they still can't make it," said Hetherington.

Neil Hetherington
Neil Hetherington

Daily Bread CEO Neil Hetherington says he doesn't expect food bank lineups to shorten until governments take action. (Clara Pasieka/CBC)

At Daily Bread Food Bank's annual spring food sort Saturday, nearly 200 volunteers sorted 60,000 pounds of food, a fraction of the 250,000 pounds he says the charity is sending out daily to food banks across the GTA.

People can't afford rising costs

Rising demand is coinciding with stagnating wages and rising costs, Hetherington says.

Hetherington says more affordable housing and an injection of funds into the Canada Disability Benefit, which will provide extra money to people on fixed incomes, are the two most immediate ways to help.she hopes the Canada Disability Benefit will "come into full force" with the new federal budget next month, providing extra grocery money to people on fixed incomes. He says quicker development of affordable housing is also key.

"Until those two things happen, I don't think that the lineups are going to start to decrease at the Daily Bread Food Bank," she said.

Governments need to act: client

Sue Ellen Patcheson says she lives on disability with her two grown children and two roommates. With $300 a month to spend on groceries, she says there's no way she can afford to buy most of her food from the supermarket.

"It's time for our government to step up and do something about it," she said. "They have a responsibility here."

The federal finance department didn't share details of the upcoming budget, but in an email, spokesperson Katherine Cuplinskas said "our economic plan is about building more homes, faster, making life more affordable, and creating more good jobs and economic growth."

Laurent de Casanove, a spokesperson for the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion & Persons with Disabilities, said there is "overwhelming support" for the benefit from Liberal MPs, but did not share what funding may be included in the new budget.

Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford spoke at Daily Bread's spring food sort Saturday. Chow says all levels of government must play a role in making life more affordable.
Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford spoke at Daily Bread's spring food sort Saturday. Chow says all levels of government must play a role in making life more affordable.

Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford spoke at Daily Bread's spring food sort Saturday. Chow says all levels of government must play a role in making life more affordable. (CBC)

Toronto mayor Olivia Chow spoke at Saturday's food sort, agreeing that all levels of government have a "role to play" in making life more affordable.

"The City of Toronto, because of new deal with the province in our budget, we are building more affordable housing, we are protecting tenants, we are bringing the city back on track," Chow said.

Doug Ford also spoke Saturday, urging people to privately donate to food banks.

"There's so many people in need right now," Ford said. "No matter if it's affordable, attainable housing or if it's just basically putting food on their table to feed their family."