May 11, 2022

Toronto Food Bank study cites biggest impacts on customer use

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Rent hikes and changes to disability benefits have the biggest impact on food bank visits in Toronto, according to a report from the University of Calgary.

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The report used data from Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank to determine that people visit more often if they’ve seen a rent increase or a decrease in disability benefits as opposed to others. factors such as a change in the minimum wage.

For example, the report – which looked at Daily Bread data from 2014 to 2020 – found that a $30 per month increase in rent would result in 73,776 more visits per year to food banks in Toronto and 375,000 more in Ontario.

“We said, ‘Look, here’s six years of data,’ and we came up with several social policies like affordable housing or increased income security,” said Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank.

“And we basically knew those were good things to have, but we wanted to see a direct correlation between the implementation of various social policies and their corresponding effect on the queues at our food banks.”

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Hetherington says the food bank offers 170 programs in Toronto.

The report found that a $1 increase in the minimum wage would result in 37,000 fewer food bank visits per year in Toronto and 188,000 fewer visits across the province.

A $15 per month increase in the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) would be associated with 54,000 fewer food bank visits per year in Toronto and 273,000 fewer across the province.

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“From April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, we will see just under 2 million customer visits,” Hetherington said.

“This is the highest number ever recorded. This is the double pre-pandemic. So the numbers were going up,” he added. “We wanted to know what is the cause and effect of some decent social policies? How many people would not need the food bank or how many if different policy levers were put in place?

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