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Overwhelmed food banks predict increased need in troubling year ahead

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Food banks across the GTA fear what is in store in the new year after the organizations weathered a year when the number of clients easily tripled amid rampant inflation and an uncertain economy.

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“During the holidays people are very generous. But once January hits our donations dry up like there is no tomorrow,” said Suman Roy, founder of Feed Scarborough, which runs five locations.

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At the beginning of the pandemic, they were delivering about 1,000 food baskets to people’s homes due to social distancing.

Now they have some 6,000 clients every week.

“From the time we started until now we have an almost 300% increase,” said Roy.

They get the bulk of their food from Daily Bread and from Second Harvest.

And since they opened, they have also received equipment and furniture donations for operations that are increasing daily.

“Around 35% of our clients have a full-time job. Some have two. And still they need to come to our food bank. That is not changing or going anywhere,” said Roy.

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A couple of the regular clients also volunteer at the food bank and fear the beginning of the year will herald an even more acute need than 2022.

“I didn’t want to just take the food, I also wanted to help out,” said Sue Saunders, who has spent four days a week at the location at Kingston Rd. and Lawrence Av. E. for just over two years.

Diane Busby started volunteering at Feed Scarborough in September. She also uses the food bank and fears next year will mean even more tough times and belt-tightening. SCOTT LAURIE/TORONTO SUN

She now runs the new hot meal program that started Nov. 8.

Diane Busby started volunteering here in September.

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“This year I am worried about going hungry again,” she said while taking a break from stacking shelves. “I’m going to have to learn to eat differently, cook differently. I don’t know how we’re going to make it. I have no idea.”

Warnings about the new year have also been made nationally by Food Banks Canada.

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“Food banks are now in uncharted territory, and with food bank usage increasing at rates not observed since the aftermath of the 2008 recession,” the organization wrote in a report entitled From a Storm to a Hurricane. “As well as a possible recession looming on the horizon, we must batten down the hatches and look after our most vulnerable neighbours.”

Roy explained that the front line of that vulnerability is getting longer and deeper.

“What people forget is that hunger is a 12-month-a-year problem, not just a November/December problem,” he said.

“Next year, 2023, we are bracing for a very tough year ahead. There’s no question about it.”

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Twitter: @_ScottLaurie

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