September was Hunger Action Month, a month-long recognition of the struggles some people face with hunger and food insecurity. As hunger awareness grows and food and meal programs continue to expand, Toronto has seen a rising percentage in food bank visits and people seeking food assistance. Many people rely on food assistance or have recently turned to food assistance programs because of the ongoing pandemic. Hunger Action is a month for us to educate ourselves on the physical and mental impacts of food insecurity and, to make the extra effort to fight hunger.
Food is a basic human right, yet 1 in 7 households in the Toronto region are food insecure. Foodbanks and hunger support programs have seen steady growth in food bank visits, which climbed 7% in Toronto over the 2019 calendar year.
The impact of COVID-19 has led to even further increased reliance on food banks. A survey conducted by Statistics Canada in May 2020 revealed that the food insecurity rate among Canadians has grown from 10.5% in 2017/18 to 14.6% during COVID-19, and the rate of new clients accessing food banks has tripled since the pandemic began. Among new clients, 76% report that they began accessing food banks as a result of COVID-19.
Without food, people are drawn to the streets to panhandle, or in extreme cases, rely on picking through garbage cans or theft to put food on the table. Their overall physical and mental health suffers, which has a domino effect on maintaining a safe and stable home. Homes First believes in and pioneered the housing first strategy. This means prioritizing moving people off streets and into safe, stable appropriate housing. Once people are housed, we follow up with support services to improve physical, mental, and social health.
Our residents are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and the impacts of the pandemic. Many live on limited incomes, and don’t have the ability to wait in lines outside grocery stores, or pay for grocery deliveries. Across our eight shelters, we provide three nutritious meals a day, and provide food assistance through community meals and food donations at our housing sites. In 2019, Homes First served 542,200 meals to residents and community members in need.
As we continue to serve over 1,200 people across 19 properties each day, consider a donation to Homes First to help us provide healthy meals and other supports to our residents.
By Carter Little