Cynthia McGilvray was seated on a bench in front of No Frills in Riverdale on Tuesday afternoon, two bags of groceries, while a customer showed up her latest contacts for food-sharing organizations.
“I hate coming here,” she said. “I came in for something and thought, ‘Oh, it’s only a few dollars. “But you get in there and the price will be twice the price.”
The unaffordability of food is nothing new for Macgillvray, as a Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipientHowever, as prices continue to rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult for her to buy the basics she needs.
On Tuesday, Statistics Canada announced that the food inflation rate has risen to a 41-year high, with Canadians paying 10.9 percent more than they paid a year ago, although the overall rate of inflation is slightly lower at 7 percent compared to The highest level in 39 years at 8.1 percent in July. With food price inflation continuing to soar, city food banks are seeing unprecedented demand while shoppers are feeling tight at the checkout line.
Experts say food insecurity among Torontonians will not subside until structural changes are implemented by all levels of government.
Already in 2021, Nearly six million Canadians lived in food-insecure households, including 1.4 million children, according to Leila Sarangi, national director of Campaign 2000, a coalition of groups working to end child and family poverty. Food inflation is driving those numbers higher, Star’s Josh Rubin’s Josh Rubin said Tuesday: “Families continue to choose between paying rent, buying healthy food, getting prescribed medications, and getting clothes and supplies for their children.”
About $300 of Macgillvray’s $1,058 per month income goes to groceries — mostly “unhealthy food” like bread, lunch meat and instant noodles — and she relies on food banks and subsidy programs for other items like fruits, vegetables and meat that have become increasingly expensive in recent months. .
“If I had to buy everything I get, it would be impossible,” she said. “Towards the end of the month, you don’t even know where your next meal will come from. I don’t know how long people will continue to live on the income they have. It’s terrible.”
Neil Hetherington, chief executive of the Daily Mail food bank in Toronto, reports that there has been a 50 percent increase in visits to food banks since January, totaling about 182,000 visits per month, while new food banks, such as Grace Place in Scarborough, have opened to help with demand.
“This city was not prepared for a severe shock,” Hetherington said, referring to the financial stresses of the pandemic era that still linger and affect affordability. Hetherington said there was a shortage of affordable housing and wages were not rising at the same rate as food bills, resulting in the situation the city is in now.
Hetherington stresses that Torontonians need to rethink the stereotypes they may hold about people who use food banks, especially since the organization expects it will serve about 240,000 people a month next year. “They’re sitting next to you on a tram, next to you in a little room.”
Hetherington argues that while all levels of government implement policies to help reduce poverty, they are not doing enough. “We are in the midst of a crisis,” and levels of social assistance must be increased, as with other poverty reduction measures.
The Fort York Food Bank notes similar trends to Daily Bread, with a record number of first-time customers in July and August, and an average of 1,941 individual customers per week in August, surpassing the record set in the previous month. Of these, 17 percent were children. Food Bank Director Julie Lejeune said you could draw a line from when inflation increased to when food bank demand rose — a two-month window, to be exact.
“Our volunteers are stressed, and our ODSP rates are really low. We are an essential service for these clients,” she said.
While Torontonians in social assistance programs may be hardest hit by food inflation levels, the situation affects nearly everyone in some way.
At Toronto Metropolitan University, two fourth-year students couldn’t believe they had paid $7 each for a cup of coffee and cake from a nearby café. An afternoon coffee break was pricey, but nothing compared to what one of them, Kacper Burza, spends on groceries: $200 to $300 a week. And if it wasn’t for his mom, he wouldn’t want to know how much his bills would be.
“My mom in Mississauga buys in bulk, and I beat her competitions at Costco. Grabbing that warm cup of coffee even those prices go up,” said Porza.
On Tuesday afternoon, Patricia Chung, a caterer at Food Basics in Gerrard Street East and Jones Avenue, told The Star that catering costs are “going up exponentially,” and it’s impossible to keep prices low for customers, especially since the cost of cooking oil triples. Times from $21.99 to $60 a gallon at the bulk food store you shop.
“Customers don’t really have the money to pay for food,” Chung said. “We struggle with them, but we try to work with them so we can help each other.”
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