Food banks assisting different clientele

The director of the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto says the face of hunger in Toronto is changing.

Gail Nyberg, executive director of the food bank, says more of her clients are newly arrived immigrants who came to Toronto hoping to gain employment. Instead, they are struggling to find work and relying on the food bank’s support to make ends meet.

“They tell us they came to this country based on … the degree of their education and when they got here, they couldn’t use it,” Nyberg said. “So they are newly arrived Canadians, but they are highly educated.”

In August, the Ontario Federation of Labour released a report, titled Falling Behind, which showed that the province has seen the largest increase in income inequality and the second largest jump in poverty rates.

Nyberg, says these numbers don’t surprise her. Not only has she seen an increase in the number of food bank users in the past two years, but she has also seen a change in the demographics of her clients.

“The biggest change is that people who use food banks are people with university or college level education,” she said. “We are also seeing more older adults…in the 45 to 60-year-old age range.”

Falling Behind also placed Ontario last in the country for social programs funding. This means food banks, such as the Daily Bread, and the Salvation Army must struggle to find ways to stretch their budgets even further. Andrew Burditt is national director of marketing and communications at The Salvation Army.

“We have seen an increase in the demand for our services,” he said. “We now have programs that are designed with meal planning, daycare (and) after-school programs.”

The Daily Bread Food Bank reported that the average food bank client has $5.83 a day left over, after they have paid the rent.

Nyberg says the Daily Bread has also altered some of its food options in order to help their clients cover grocery expenses.

“Where a food bank might be serving a large immigrant population from a certain area, we give the food bank what is called a ‘staples program,’” she said. “So, instead of getting peanut butter and Kraft Dinner, they could elect to get flour, oil, tomato paste, and beans and lentils. We try to accommodate different cultural styles.”