Food bank visits in the GTA are up 51% from last year, Daily Bread says

Daily Bread says it needs all levels of government to act as the cost of living forces more people to rely on food banks. Visits are up 51 per cent from this time last year, the charity says, and the goal of this year's drive is to raise $3.8 million along with over 200,000 lbs of food donations.

Daily Bread hoping to raise $3.8M, collect tens of thousands in donations by Oct. 31

A man in a red shirt speaks at a podium outside a fire hall. Food donations and red bags are stacked in front of him.
Puralator will distribute red bags throughout the GTA for non-perishable donations on Saturday. They will be picked up Sep. 30 and brought to Daily Bread food banks as part of the Thanksgiving drive. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

As Daily Bread Food Bank launches its annual Thanksgiving food drive, the charity is looking for more than just donations to meet record demand – it wants Torontonians to pressure governments to offer relief.

Speaking to reporters at the food drive launch Thursday morning, Daily Bread's vice president of research and advocacy Talia Bronstein said food banks are doing all they can for an ever-growing client list, but they need help.

The federal government spent over $200 million throughout the pandemic on an Emergency Food Security Fund, which was distributed regionally to food aid agencies.

That support has since stopped — and Bronstein says the Daily Bread's food costs are now 12 times higher than they were pre-pandemc.

Food bank visits have also gone up 51 per cent compared to this time last year, she said, a fact she attributes to the rising cost of living. 

Last month, she says there were 274,521 food bank visits across the GTA. It costs the charity nearly $2 million a month, or $22 million annually, to run its services, Bronstein said.

"Toronto's food insecurity crisis continues with no signs of slowing down," she said. "No one should have to rely on charity for food yet here we are, with 12,500 new individuals walking through the doors of Toronto food banks for the first time every single month."

Due to growing need, Bronstein says Daily Bread is hoping to raise $3.8 million and collect over 90,718 kilograms in food donations by the end of October.

"We are calling on the public to get involved in any way you can," she said.

"You can support by donating food or funds or volunteering your time. But most importantly, we need you to raise your voice. We need you to contact your elected representatives at all levels of government and demand urgent action to address Toronto's food insecurity crisis."

Daily Bread appeals to governments for help

NDP MPP Bhutila Karpoche, who also attended the launch, says the Ontario government needs to step up.

"The lack of action to address grocery-price gouging, the ever-skyrocketing rents and the overall cost of housing is putting immense pressure on individuals and families across the province," Karpoche said.

A woman in a sweater stands outside on a grassy lawn in the city.
NDP MPP Bhutila Karpoche in 2018. (CBC)

A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of of Children, Community and Social Services says the department is working to bring relief to people struggling with a cost of living that's been steadily rising.

"Our government is improving the way that social assistance is delivered in the province so that people have a faster pathway to get the support they need," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The spokesperson says the department is helping lower-income Ontarians with disabilities by tying its support program to inflation, a move made in July.

Meanwhile, earlier this month the federal government announced new measures aimed at addressing the rising cost of food and housing. The federal government said it plans to remove the GST from rental apartment construction to encourage development, and that the heads of Canada's largest grocery chains have agreed to work with Ottawa to stabilize food prices.

As for Toronto's municipal government, new Mayor Olivia Chow has also vowed to build more affordable housing. During a campaign debate hosted by Daily Bread in the spring, Chow said the city should also support community gardens, community kitchens and nutrition programs focused on addressing food insecurity.

GTA food bank demand at record high

At the beginning of this year, research from Second Harvest, a national service that rescues food that might otherwise end up in landfills and redistributes it to those in need, projected that 60 per cent more Canadians were expected to use food banks and other programs each month in 2023.

In an email, Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel said those projections now appear tame.

"With relentless inflation, wildfires, flat wages and a continued housing crisis in Canada, we're hearing this estimate was conservative," she said. "Across the board and across the country, non-profits we work with are reporting sustained increases in need for food, even exceeding what was initially expected." 

Many boxes and volunteers packing them in a food bank.
Daily Bread says it's now spending about 12 times more on food than it did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They say the rising cost of living has led to a large increase in demand. (Pelin Sidki/CBC)

The Fort York Food Bank in downtown Toronto, for example, which gets some of its food from Daily Bread, has gone from about 1,200 people a week using its services in March 2022, to 4,300 people a week currently, executive director Julie LeJeune said in an email.

Daily Bread's Thanksgiving food drive ends Oct. 31. The charity offers over 200 food programs, most of which are food banks, in the GTA.

The charity is also working with Purolator to collect non-perishables. The company is distributing red bags throughout Toronto from Sep. 23 to 30 for people to drop off donations, which will be distributed over the holiday to families experiencing food insecurity.


Ethan Lang


Ethan Lang is a reporter for CBC Toronto. Ethan has also worked in Whitehorse, where he covered the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and Halifax, where he wrote on housing and forestry for the Halifax Examiner.