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GTA food bank reduces size of family boxes as new report shows dramatic spike in usage

Relentless Inflation and the affordability crisis have created some record breaking numbers when it comes to food bank usage across Canada and in the Greater Toronto Area.

A new report from Food Banks Canada has revealed that there were two million visits to food banks this past March, representing a 32 per cent increase from the same month in 2022 and a staggering 78 per cent increase from 2019.

Chadi Abad is the manager at Flemingdon Food Bank, which is located in a tight basement space.

Adad said the food bank has seen a dramatic spike in visits. Before the COVID-19 pandemic it served around 200 families weekly. Now the number is closer to 800.

To adapt, he said the size of family boxes has been reduced but more donations are needed, with new clients coming all the time.

Abad said a toy drive is planned to raise money, with the hope being that $20,000 could help replenish family boxes between now and Christmas.

“People complain what you guys are giving us is not enough,” Abad said. “I totally understand. I try to explain to them we try to share with all people. The situation is hard.”

The report found the top reasons people accessed a food bank this year were high food costs, high housing costs, low wages or not enough hours of work.

The release of the report comes amid concerns being expressed about the strain on several GTA food banks.

Earlier this month, officials with Food Banks Mississauga told CP24 that they are serving 82 per cent more people than they were pre-pandemic, with a record 16,000 people coming through their doors in August.

“How can we accept that this number of people across the country are suffering,” Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley said in an interview with CP24 Wednesday.

“What we’re seeing is that decades of social policy neglect is now meeting this affordability issue so we solutions that address both the income side and the affordability side.”

The report found that among those who visited a food bank in March about one-third were children. More than a quarter were recent immigrants.

Beardsley pointed to Canada’s Employment insurance program that was developed in the 1990’s. She said it doesn’t take into account the gig economy and so more appropriate solutions are needed.

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