New report from Scarborough food bank paints unsettling picture of food insecurity

A troubling report from Feed Scarborough Food Bank has revealed almost 30 per cent of its clients are employed, and a startling 95 per cent were not born in Canada. Tina Yazdani speaks with an asylum seeker who has come to rely on the food bank.

By Tina Yazdani

Food has become so unaffordable in Toronto that even some employed people are no longer able to buy groceries, according to a new report released by the Feed Scarborough Food Banks.

Feed Scarborough, which has five different locations, has seen a 112 per cent increase in visits since last year – one of many food banks across the city where demand has skyrocketed.

The report released by the food bank is digging into why so many Torontonians are struggling.

About 28 per cent of the clients are currently employed and almost 65 per cent are students.

“Think about it, you’re working 40 hours a week, but you still can’t afford food which is a basic human right,” said Suman Roy, founder of Feed Scarborough.

More than half of those employed reported low income as their reason for accessing a food bank.

“That says that we have precarious employment [and] that says housing and other expenses are so high that food is somewhere where they compromise.”

The survey found that 95 per cent of clients were not born in Canada and 72 per cent of clients have been in Canada for less than a year. Brigitte arrived in Canada from Uganda three months ago and is still waiting for a work permit.

“I can’t pay the bills. I don’t have any money. I don’t have any income, but I’m still surviving,” said Brigitte.

She blames stress and a lack of food for a miscarriage she endured when she first arrived in the country. Now, she is volunteering at the food bank until she is able to work.

“The situations I’ve passed through, the things I’ve passed through have been a lot, and at times I regret, I’m like ‘why did I leave?’ I would’ve stayed there. On the other hand, I say you have to face it and life has to move on,” she told CityNews. “If someone wants to work, they should allow us to work immediately.”

Advocates believe a lack of affordable housing is one of the primary reasons why people need to access food banks which they say have become a band-aid solution. Almost 90 per cent of those using food banks currently live in a rental property.

“You’ve got basement apartments here in Scarborough going for $2,000. Median income is something like $39,000 here, it’s really really hard for people to be able to afford living,” said community advocate Kevin Rupasingh.

“There’s some really hard decisions people have to make about should I pay rent or should I pay for food on the table,” he added.

Advocates are calling on all levels of government to start addressing these disparities, but CityNews has been told no political leaders have responded to this particular report just yet.

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