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article imageToronto Food Banks show the real face of poverty Special

By KJ Mullins     Dec 3, 2012 in World
Toronto - As Toronto City Hall works to cut over $128-million cut from the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, more people will be sleeping on the concrete.
Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc said that the budget cuts for housing is a problem that stems at the federal and provisional level. "Toronto is being left high and dry when it comes to social assistance. Housing is a fundamental right. We have to fight to see that people are housed properly. The provincial government has cut funding and downloaded the problem to the city level."
Mihevc stressed one of the provincial cuts that will be affecting those on the streets and in dire straits is the Community Start Up Fund. While it has been reported that as of January 1, 2013 the fund would be gone in Toronto the funding is simply going down to half the amount that it was. That is because Toronto is making sure that there is some funding, although it is not enough to see a person get help with the first month rent housing needs. "This fund has been downloaded to the city. It helps the provincial budget look good and the city gets the bad name."
Mihevc said he and others at City Hall will be fighting for those in need of housing. "The rates for those on assistance are not close to what is necessary to survive. The way it is now people have to relay on food banks to eat on the last days of the month."
A look at who visits food banks show that the situation is already critical for a large portion of those living in the city.
The Greater Toronto Area has seen poverty increasing steadily since the 2008 recession. Today the Executive Director of Ontario Association of Food Banks Bill Laidlaw said that "the face of hunger is changing" with children being the largest group using food banks. In Ontario there are 160,000 kids accessing food banks each month.
In March 2012 412,998 people accessed food banks in Ontario. This year over 174,000 people have had to use a food bank for the first time in their lives. These increases have been hard on the services that provide emergency food, nineteen percent of Ontario food banks do not have enough supplies to provide for their community.
"Every day there are children going to school without breakfast, adults working through the day without lunch, and seniors going to bed without dinner, simply because they cannot afford food to eat," says Laidlaw. "It is our hope that you will help us by speaking to your local MPPs and asking them to put hunger on the agenda, as well as by supporting your local food bank. In this province, and in this country, hunger and access to healthy food should not be an issue."
With over 1.1 million visits to food banks in the GTA one has to question how those already in dire straits will be able to survive the latest runs of planned cuts. Thirty-two percent of those using food banks have given up food in order to pay their rent.
Thirty-two percent of food bank clients are children with a quarter percent going hungry at least once every seven days because there is no money to buy food.
Getting a university education is no guarantee that a person will escape poverty. Twenty-eight percent of those who are going to food banks in the GTA graduated from university.
Those who visit food banks live on about $690 a month after rent, translating to a mere $5.83 a day to survive. For the average Torontorian rent eats much of their pay cheque with 71 percent of their money going to cover a roof over their head. Spending over 50 percent on rent puts a person at risk for homelessness.
A source at one local community centre said that today it's hard to pinpoint who is in need. More people, that in the past were those who would never have to ask for help are now having to ask for help to feed their families.
If the budget cuts go through for Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration the need of food banks will increase. With these emergency agencies already struggling to feed their clients how will they be able to add to that client list?
More about Food banks, Toronto, Poverty, Toronto budget
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