Food bank usage is growing in Toronto's suburbs and falling in the city's downtown core, according to a report released today by the Daily Bread food bank.
The report, entitled "Who's Hungry: A tale of Two Cities," examined food bank visits in Toronto since the 2008 recession.
It found that in the downtown core, client visits were down 16 per cent compared to 2008 while visits in Toronto's inner suburbs increased 45 per cent over the same period.
Overall, food bank visits are up 12 per cent across the city, according to the report, which is embedded at the bottom of this story.
Daily Bread executive director Gail Nyberg appeared on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Monday and said the drop in food bank visits in downtown is likely not good news.
She said rising housing costs appear to have forced food bank clients to seek cheaper housing outside the city core.
"We're pushing the poor out of the downtown core, because prices for housing is skyrocketing," she told host Matt Galloway. "When only a certain type of people can live downtown, that's not healthy for a city."
The report says the growing demand in areas outside downtown Toronto, such as Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York, has food banks in those areas struggling to keep up with demand.
"For example, areas of northern and eastern Scarborough and North York have high levels of people living with low income, but due to lack of space the available programs are often overcrowded, and there is an inability to meet demand in that area as a result," says the report.
The report also includes results of a 31-question survey that Daily Bread clients were asked to participate in on a voluntary basis. Clients were asked questions in an open-style interview or had the option of filling out the survey questions themselves. Just under 1,100 surveys were completed.
Nyberg said results of the survey show that too many Toronto residents are still struggling with precarious work, inadequate social assistance and the rising costs of living.
The report says 55 per cent of Daily Bread clients are women while 32 per cent are younger than 18 years old. More than half the food bank's clients, 55 per cent, were born outside of Canada.
For those who had been using the food bank for less than six months, 27 per cent of clients said they needed its services due to a job loss while 20 per cent said they were new to the area and getting settled.
The report also found that Daily Bread clients were using its services for a longer period of time, from a median of 12 months in 2008 to 24 months last year.
A total of 55 per cent of people who participated in the survey said they skipped eating to pay for something else in the last year. Rent, at 36 per cent, topped the list of expenses skipped in favour of food while phone (19 per cent) transport (16 per cent) and utilities (10 per cent) filled out the list.
With a federal election underway and leaders of all parties making regular appearances in Toronto, Galloway asked Nyberg if poverty reduction is getting enough attention.
She said although some leaders are talking about issues such as affordable housing, there needs to be more concrete plans to reduce demand on food banks.
"We need to see real programs, real commitments with real dollars," she said
Read the report here: