Reliance of Food Bank rises with cost of living

Who’s Hungry 2008: Profile of Hunger in the GTA, released by the Daily Bread Food Bank, says the usage of food banks in the Greater Toronto Area has increased by five per cent since last year. This is the eighth consecutive year of increased usage.

Gail Nyberg, executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank, says the rising price of gas and food has a lot to do with this increase. She says more and more people in the work force are falling behind on their financial obligations due to being paid salaries that are too low to make a comfortable living, despite making more than minimum wage.

“Salaries are not increasing quickly and the cost of rent and housing in this city and in the GTA is astronomical,” she said. “So those are some of the reasons (food bank usage has increased). (With) gas prices, house prices and food prices, salaries (are) not keeping up”

She says 98 per cent of people who use food banks have a place to live, but after paying for all their expenses, do not have enough money left over to buy food. Most people on welfare make in the neighbourhood of $500 but pay about $400 a month in rent for a room they cannot even cook in, she said.

Although the usage use of food banks has gone up by 90 per cent since 1995, Nyberg says both the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party have good plans around poverty and could implement helpful changes.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t have a lot of hope for Mr. Harper. Should he become a majority, he could do some damage,” she said. “When Mike Harris and those Conservatives came in, I can tell you they made it worse and we saw our numbers double in 1995.”

Gerard Kennedy, the Liberal candidate for Parkdale-High Park, says people don’t realize that just the increase in gas prices can tip them over the edge financially. He believes the provincial government is very sincere about their strategy to remedy the situation.

Kennedy says it is not only the provincial government that needs to respond to this problem.

“The federal government can have a role and we’re going to make that happen (if elected) through the working income tax credit, the new child benefit and an increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors,” he said.

Brian McInnis of the NDP says their target is eliminating poverty in Canada completely by 2025. The NDP plans to cut child poverty in half and reduce overall poverty by 35 per cent in the first five years. They also intend to increase Child Tax Benefit from $3,271 to $5,000.

Nyberg says people do not realize they can make a difference by going out and voting. It makes good sense for everyone to read up on what the parties stand for, no matter how helpless people feel she said.

“They need to read the literature to find out which party would be helpful to the little guy,” she said. “Especially those people with low income…need to get out there and vote.”