Torontonians face what can only be described as a crisis.
Since 2014, Toronto’s number of food bank users has doubled. According to the Toronto Food Bank (TFB), a startling 70,000 Toronto families visited the program over the past year, and they need help right now more than ever.
Recall the unfortunate commentary directed at President Trump. He was blamed for the rising number of refugees and his border policies for the numerous illegal immigrants who were pouring into the country.
But this is not a simple Trump-driven problem, it’s Toronto’s problem.
Local industries have not created enough jobs in recent years. Many residents are struggling to pay their mortgages or mounting personal debt.
It’s no wonder that nearly 1 in 4 Toronto households depends on public assistance. A single parent with one child, or a couple with two or more children, would need about one full-time job to meet their basic needs, which also include housing and child care.
Food banks are an obvious way to meet basic needs. But the problem is not getting worse. It is getting worse because citizens are not able to meet their basic needs.
This number has declined slightly in recent years, but not enough to leave household budgets balanced. So Toronto’s high rate of food insecurity is driven by a shortage of jobs and a record number of Torontonians relying on food banks.
At the same time, the costs of living have gone up, but government support programs have not kept pace. Even in the last month, programs such as Ontario’s help-to-work program for new and long-term immigrants have been cut.
Many social service programs have also been cut over the last decade in Toronto. The post-9/11 program that brought immigrants into the country to improve their skills and skills was dismantled. And while the province now provides low-income assistance to youth and their families, it has cut back on programs since 2016.
With minimum wage mandated hikes in Ontario, many restaurant workers who make less than $13 an hour will face the wage hike. The cost of food has gone up significantly over the last couple of years, and these food donations won’t do much for them.
The Canadian Press reported last week that the demand for anti-hunger grants from food banks has increased by 25 percent in the past few years.
Demand for food banks is likely to rise as baby boomers age and life expectancy increases. The unemployment rate in Ontario is already at 7.4 percent. And even with more people who can find work, they cannot find it in a single industry.
Given all this, the need for food banks is likely to go up for some time. Toronto’s residents still cannot keep up with their basic needs – a recipe for disaster.
Take Elizabeth Heideman. She is the mother of eight children, all girls, and struggles to pay the mortgage on her apartment complex.
“I had to get some help,” Heideman told the Toronto Star. “Everyone’s household expenses are going up faster than incomes, especially with mortgage payments.”
The spiraling cost of living, cheap gasoline, fast-food chains, and increased taxes on things such as air travel and beer are raising the prices on every product.
The desperate and burdened constituents of Toronto are forced to turn to food banks. It is becoming more likely that only the very poor will have enough left over to do something other than put food on the table for their children.
David Stevens is a writer, political organizer, and public servant. Follow him on Twitter @DavidStevensTO.