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Addressing rising food insecurity in the GTA

A FoodShare employee assembles food boxes in a warehouse. The agency is one of the organizations tackling rising food insecurity in the GTA.
Courtesy of Foodshare

The surging cost of food is hitting low-income households the hardest. Here’s what United Way is doing to address rising food insecurity

Dear Friend,

Have you gone to the grocery store yet this weekend? Did you pay more than last week? You’ve undoubtedly noticed the cost hikes for what you may deem essential–your milk, your greens, some cereal.

The reality is that low-income households across Peel, Toronto and York Region are being squeezed by such increases, skipping meals to get by. Some figures for you: Almost half of Canadians said they struggled to meet food costs and almost a quarter said they ate less than they should because they didn’t have enough money for food. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that the head of Food Banks Canada has said this summer has been the toughest for food banks in its 41-year history.

Food insecurity is both an urgent need and a reflection of system and policy failures to promote income security. That’s why United Way works from all sides on this issue. We fund programming that meets the immediate needs of people experiencing food insecurity. We support agencies that are transforming communities into places with strong, vibrant and connected local food systems. And we advocate for systems change that gets at the root causes of food insecurity. Here are just three examples of that work:

  • FoodShare has partnered with University Health Network on Food RX, a pilot program that provides people with low incomes and chronic health problems a “prescription” for healthy food. Participants are already reporting significant improvements in their quality of life, overall happiness and sense of community connection.
  • Ecosource is helping tomeet an increase in demand forcommunity gardens and urban agriculture since the onset of the pandemic. Their program is increasing food access for Mississauga residents living in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty by expanding infrastructure for gardens, creating educational programs, and collaborating with other community agencies to improve food distribution.
  • The Indigenous Network‘s Path to Sustenance: The Urban Indigenous Food Security Project teaches skills and fosters a learning and sharing environment to address the challenges that prevent Indigenous communities from accessing affordable, fresh food.

In your next visit to the grocery store, as you stare at the spike in your bill, know your gift and efforts are helping many access those basic goods, while allowing us to push for more sustainable solutions to food insecurity. As our region continues to contend with rising costs, we will continue to be there for community, shoulder-to-shoulder with our network of agencies that is constantly innovating and advocating. And all of this, made possible by people like you.  

Always, and only, thank you. 

Daniele Zanotti
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto

Things to Know Right Now

Rendering of the four-tower housing complex being developed with WoodGreen and other local agencies.
Courtesy of Spotlight Development


United Way anchor agency WoodGreen Community Services is one of four local non-profits partnering with developers on an innovative four-tower housing complex in Toronto’s northwest. The new development will be a mix of condos and rental units, with 70 per cent of the housing units being affordable. The development also intends to dedicate 10 per cent of the property to housing for Black peoples, 10 per cent for Indigenous peoples, 10 per cent to Habitat for Humanity, 10 per cent to Trillium Housing and 15 per cent to WoodGreen. The housing crisis in our region continues to affect many, especially families living on a low income. We’re proud to see one of our partner agencies working on a project that promises to bring more decent, affordable housing to our community. But we also know that there is more work to do, and we at United Way will continue to push for more and better policy solutions and collaborative initiatives.

Living wage

What’s the difference between minimum wage and a living wage? A minimum wage is the legal minimum employers must pay their employees ($15.50 in Ontario). A living wage is the amount a worker needs to cover expenses and participate in the life of their community ($19.80 in Peel Region and $22.08 in Toronto). A living wage is what advocates, including United Way-funded Workers’ Action Centre, have relentlessly called for at the provincial level. It’s one of the key areas the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy, co-chaired by United Way, mobilizes around to eliminate poverty in Peel Region. It’s what United Way champions in community, and what we model as an organization. We’re proud to meet this standard, but know it is just one step towards being a more equitable workplace and funder.

Local Love in Action

National Indigenous Peoples Day graphic with the date of the day, June 21, 2022

Tuesday, June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day, a time to recognize and celebrate the cultures, histories, experiences and voices of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. You can celebrate in Toronto at a Sunrise Ceremony and at an Indigenous Day Celebration in Yonge-Dundas Square hosted by United Way-supported Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. Or join celebrations in Mississauga, Brampton, or Richmond Hill. It’s also a great time to learn more about the land we share. The Native Land digital resource is a great tool for learning about Indigenous histories in your area and across the country. You can also check out this video and article from Selena Mills and Sara Roque exploring an Indigenous oral history of Tkaronto. No matter how you choose to celebrate, remember that we are all treaty people. United Way is deeply committed to furthering reconciliation, and we hope you will continue to join with us in this work.

Get Involved

Photo of United Way employees holding “United with Pride” signs at a past Toronto Pride Parade.

Find us at Toronto’s Pride Parade

On Sunday, June 26, United Way Greater Toronto staff, friends and family will be marching in Toronto’s Pride Parade. Hope to see you there!

Join us at our 2022 Annual General Meeting

Join us at our virtual Annual General Meeting on Thursday, June 23, 2022, for inspiring discussions with community innovators and sector leaders, including Lisa Williams, Senior Vice-President of Strategy at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; Angela Robertson, Executive Director of Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre; Mercedes Sharpe Zayas, Planning Coordinator at Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, Clovis Grant, CEO of 360°kids, and Sharon Floyd, CEO of Embrave Agency to End Violence. We’ll dig into the practical, scalable work we can and must do together to ensure access to affordable and appropriate housing, local economic opportunities, and a resilient community service sector. Because for this place we love to be great—it must be great for all. We hope to see you there.

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