Food insecurity adding to the equity divide for low-income Torontonians

United Way report highlights accessibility to healthy food is becoming more difficult for racialized folks

Growing up in poverty with a single mother, I’m reminded of some of the interactions our family had when we visited the grocery store. Once our total was tallied at the cash register, my mother would sometimes have to return food because we couldn’t afford everything in our basket.

The divide between white and racialized folks in Toronto has reached an all-time high. This is expressed clearly in the United Way Greater Toronto’s recent report, Rebalancing The Opportunity Equation. With the Doug Ford government’s penchant for destructive cuts which seem to target our city’s most vulnerable, the divide will only get worse. The Ford government announced yesterday that it plans to delay cuts previously threatened to public health and other municipal programs, but there’s still uncertainty.

One of the most successful in bridging the equity divide, Foodshare’s Mobile Good Food Market, relies on $81,000 annual funding from Toronto Public Health. 

The travelling community markets bring busloads of fresh fruits and vegetables to communities that struggle with access to affordable produce. The markets are stocked with a diversity of items based on community demands which are sold at a lower price than at grocery stores.

Foodshare has seen an increase in demand for these markets. Last year, more than 25,000 kilograms of fresh produce was sold at Mobile Good Food Market — a 58 per cent increase over 2017. The market served 11,000 folks at nine stops in 2018, a 28 per cent increase over the previous year – the vast majority of them racialized folks from communities that are already over-represented in poverty and food insecurity statistics. 

The United Way report highlights this in a big way. For those that already struggle with access to healthy food, purchasing fresh produce is becoming even more difficult.

According to Canada’s Food Price Report for 2019, conducted by Guelph and Dalhousie universities, the price of vegetables is anticipated to increase up to six per cent this year – the greatest increase out of all food categories, including bakery, dairy and meat.

I remember the first time I saw the Mobile Good Food Market in action at a stop outside a rental tower at Sherbourne and Wellesley. A senior came up to the truck, smiled and then reached into her purse to ask what she could buy for 35 cents.

A space had been created where she didn’t feel the shame typically associated with the grocery store experience for many low-income people.

Racialized folks are being left behind in this city. This affects every single Torontonian who prides themselves with living in a city that values diversity.

Paul Taylor is the executive director of FoodShare Toronto. He is seeking the federal NDP nomination for Parkdale-High Park.


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