Business is booming at the food bank, unfortunately

Although Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank failed to reach its goal of 900,000 pounds of food for its recent fall food drive, there’s a bigger issue facing Daily Bread and those who survive because of it.

What is really worrisome, according to Daily Bread’s executive director Gayle Nyberg, is the ever increasing role the food bank plays in feeding the working people of Toronto.

“The role of the food bank in Toronto has absolutely changed,” she said. “Twenty-four per cent of the people who use the food bank now are working, compared to only 12 per cent 10 years ago.”

Those figures come from Daily Bread’s annual survey published in June in Who’s Hungry: 2006 Profile of Hunger in the GTA.

Food bank use up by 79 per cent

The report found that food bank use in the area has risen 79 per cent since 1995 and, as Nyberg explained, many more people using food banks are working.

David Langille, the director of Toronto’s Centre for Social Justice, says the city isn’t lacking in money, it’s where the money is going that has created the problem.

“The rich are getting richer. The CEO’s have been making 10, 20 or over 30 per cent increases in salary, sometimes over only one year, he said, “while many people are just struggling to get by on minimum wage.”

Langille says the best way to alleviate poverty in Toronto is to increase the minimum wage. He believes if working people can actually live on the income they make, then they won’t have to rely on food banks.

“There are over one million people in Toronto whose annual income falls below the poverty line,” he said. “So the number one thing we need to do is raise the minimum wage.”

Needed: a wage one can live on

Nyberg believes another problem facing the working poor is the high cost of apartments in the city. “The money people are earning goes towards rent,” she said. “A lack of affordable housing is a huge reason so many people now need to use the Food Bank.”

Langille predicts poverty in Toronto will get worse. He blames corporations and employers for creating the city’s large population of working poor. “They [corporations] promote policies that make them competitive by lowering labour costs,” he said.

“If an employer doesn’t pay a living wage to it’s employees, then they are promoting poverty.”

Every year Nyberg sees an increased need at the food bank, and doesn’t see the problem going away.

“People are working and still aren’t able to buy enough food for themselves and their families,” she said.

“There’s something very wrong with that.”