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Food security: not just a holiday issue

At the rate things are tracking, Toronto will reach two major milestones in 2020: first, our city will reach a population of 3 million; and second, Torontonians will visit food banks over one million times.

Far from being a temporary solution for a short-term problem, food bank usage has grown by 4 per cent this year.

Many of us in Don Valley North never go hungry. We may flippantly say "I'm starving!" but we do not know real hunger. We have never had to look in the cupboard and decide who in our family should eat and who will have to miss another meal. We may enjoy pasta but we aren’t forced to eat it five nights a week to stretch food dollars to the end of the month.

The numbers

Recently, North York Harvest, in partnership with Daily Bread Food Bank and The Mississauga Food Bank, released their annual "Who's Hungry" report. The report uses big data to show food bank use is rising and it has a great deal to do with the high cost of housing.

What the numbers above show is the impact of high rents on those who rely on Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) as their only income.

Some assume that people receiving social assistance must also live in subsidized housing. In fact, the majority of OW and ODSP clients live in market-value rental homes. Hanging on to their apartments can mean going full days without food at the end of every month.

An even more troubling trend is the increase in food bank visits by employed people and seniors who receive full CPP, OAS and GIS, after working all their lives. These demographics make up 31 per cent of food bank users. Again, housing is the main culprit, followed by phone bills and transportation costs.

Not just a holiday issue Around Thanksgiving every year, we become aware that food banks like North York Harvest need our help. We fill a bag of groceries and leave it in a collection box. Some may even volunteer to visit the food bank and sort food for a couple of hours. By Christmas, you might even reach peak guilt and write a cheque.

This is all wonderful — but there are bigger actions we must take to tackle this.

All levels of our government must come together to invest in creating truly affordable housing, repairing our transit system and stabilizing its fares and increasing access to affordable childcare.

If you are a reading this and you have never experienced food insecurity, you may want to pitch in to help.

North York Harvest is our favourite agency because they run the Oriole Food Space right here in Don Valley North, as well as many other outlets. They offer a number of ways to get involved, depending on your time and resources.

If you want to help out locally, check out the January 2020 calendar for Oriole Food Space below.

Reminder: final PB voting starts tomorrow!

It's time — Parkway Forest and Henry Farm residents will cast their final votes for their favourite Participatory Budgeting projects starting tomorrow!

Come by Parkway Forest Community Centre on Friday December 13 from 4-8pm or Saturday, December 14 from 10am-4pm.

The winning projects will be announced at 4pm and we will celebrate with cake.

To read more about PB and the projects that will be voted on this weekend, visit our Participatory Budgeting page.


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