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1.1 million people use GTA food banks annually: survey

For the fifth straight year, more than a million people used food banks in the Greater Toronto Area including Durham, Peel and York regions in the year ending March 2013, according to an annual report by the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Of the the 1.1 million visits, 937,500 visits were in Toronto, which declined one per cent from the same period a year ago, according to the Who’s Hungry Report. The remaining 180,000 were from elsewhere in the GTA.

Food banks in the city’s inner suburbs of Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York saw a 38 per cent increase in visits since 2008.

The 905 area, which includes Durham, York and Peel, saw an increase of 3 per cent.

“These numbers only show those who actually come to a food bank when they can’t afford food,” executive director Gail Nyberg said in the report. “It’s been previously shown that for every person who comes there is at least one other very hungry person who cannot afford food who does not come.”

The survey employed 100 volunteers conducting one-on-one interviews with more than 1,700 people accessing GTA food banks.

Their interviews showed those using food banks were people transitioning to a new country, an aging demographic contending with a disability or illness and others struggling with the rising cost of basic needs regardless of whether they’re employed or on social assistance.

Food bank clients receive an average monthly income of about $700 and spend nearly three-quarters of it on rent.

Have you had to use food banks? Share your story in the comments.