The Daily Bread Food Bank collected more than 25,000 pounds of food on Saturday as part of its spring drive to feed hungry people in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eva Molina, spokesperson for the food bank, said in a news release that the food bank will distribute the food to people across the city through its member agencies.
The food bank collected items at two locations in what it called a "contactless" Spring Drive-Thru event on the Easter long weekend.
Residents were able to drive into a parking lot at the food bank's Etobicoke distribution centre, get out of their vehicles and deposit food into large boxes. People were also able to drop off food at the Rogers Centre.
Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, said the numbers of people using food banks in Toronto has grown since the pandemic first hit the city in March 2020. He thanked residents who took time on Saturday to drop off food. It shows their love for the city, he said.
"Today is a wonderful outward expression of people caring for the community," Hetherington told reporters in Etobicoke.
"Things are broken. There is an opportunity for us to advocate for solutions so that nobody needs to make use of a food bank."
The food bank said it is hoping to raise 225,000 pounds of food by April 30 and the 25,093 pounds collected on Saturday will contribute to that goal.
In the past six months, the Daily Bread Food Bank and its member agencies have seen an average of 105,000 client visits each month, a 51 per cent increase compared to the previous year.
Last year at this time, the food bank and its member agencies would have seen about 60,000 clients take advantage of its food each month.
"In a city as wonderful as ours is, that shouldn't be the case. We know that with the shutdown, things will continue to be very difficult for many families and we are here to support them," Hetherington said.
"Individuals who make use of the food banks are often the first to be kicked out of the economy and the last to be brought back in," he added.
Hetherington said the food bank is seeing people who used to work in the service sector, who have used up all of their savings, who are depending on loans and who have exhausted the goodwill of family and friends.
"They are turning to us for emergency food relief," he said.
Number of BIPOC food bank users disproportionately high
Hetherington said the percentage of Black, Indigenous and people of colour in Toronto using the food bank is disproportionately high compared to that of other population groups. For example, the Indigenous population makes up one per cent of Toronto, but five per cent of food bank users, he said.
"This not only forces us to ask questions about food security but poverty in general and how that ties in with systemic racism," he said. "We are here not only to fill the needs for today, in terms of food relief, but also to advocate for change."
Three quarters of food bank clients who had never gone to food banks before reported in a recent survey that they began using them because of the pandemic.
And the frequency of food bank clients who reported not eating for an entire day almost every month has increased by 20 per cent, the food bank said.
Mayor says it's hard to hear people are going hungry
Mayor John Tory, on hand at the event to show support, said the city has developed programs, with the help of community groups, to increase food security as the pandemic continues. But he acknowledged it is hard to hear that people are going hungry.
"We are trying to do our best in what is an unprecedented circumstance," Tory said.
People can still contribute to the spring food drive by doing the following:
Food donations can be dropped off at any fire hall in the city.
People can donate money by visiting the Daily Bread website or by placing an online food order and having it delivered directly to the Daily Bread warehouse at 191 New Toronto St., Toronto, ON, M8V 2E7.
People can register to be a community champion and hold a food drive or fundraiser in their own neighbourhoods.
"As food insecurity and the need for emergency food relief continues to grow, support from the community is needed more than ever," the food bank said in a news release this week.