In the last year, visits to Toronto food banks have gone up nine per cent in the last year, reaching levels not seen since the 2010 recession, says a recent report by the Daily Bread Food Bank.
The study found that there were almost one million visits to charities belonging to the Daily Bread Food Bank and the North York Harvest Food Bank in Toronto between April 2016 and March 2017.
"On top of more visits, people are having to come for twice as long as they have before… that's very troubling," said Richard Matern, the study's author.
The average length of time people need to access food banks has also gone up from 12 months in 2010 to 24 months presently, the study says.
The part of the city that saw the largest increase in visits was Scarborough, up 30 per cent compared to last year's numbers.
Matern says Scarborough attracts a lot of newcomers because the area is usually associated with affordable housing, but that's not the case any more.
"Most of the respondents we talked to are paying market rent. Most are spending most of their income on rent," he said.
Donations steady, but many food banks can't manage spike
Even though donations have remained steady, Matern says some food banks have had to give people less food or even turn them away.
"When you see an increase like we have in Scarborough of 30 per cent in a year, it's extremely hard to manage an increase in supply with that sudden increase in demand."
Joey Arnold has been going to the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities food bank for about five years. After his brother was involved in an accident and unable to work, the pair lost their home along with their handyman business.
"Now my brother is on government assistance and I work part time when I can, but it's just not enough to make ends meet," said Arnold.
More seniors visiting food banks
The report points out that the populations with the biggest hikes are seniors and those with a post-secondary degree.
In the last year, visits by those 65 and older have gone up by 27 per cent. Matern says that's a result of an aging population, high rent and government aid not adjusting with inflation.
When it comes to those with a post-secondary degree, Matern found that visits have gone up 12 per cent in the last 10 years.
"We're at a tipping point where the present income security system cannot address the realities of what's happening in terms of the labour market and an aging population."
Matern says the biggest change that needs to happen in order to reverse this upswing, is the creation of more affordable housing.