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Hot-spot neighbourhoods and vaccine inequity: How does food insecurity relate?

According to new analysis from the independent research group ICES, the Toronto neighbourhoods with the highest COVID rates are the least vaccinated areas in the city.

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Image from The Local

The most vaccinated areas? St. Clair & Rosedale (22.4%), Forest Hill (22.1%), and Forest Hill South (22.0%)

The lowest? Jane & Finch (5.5%)

This is deeply upsetting, but far from surprising—the stark gap in privilege between Toronto’s neighbourhoods has long existed. It’s evident in everything from which areas have regular bus service, who’s able to earn a liveable income, and who lives close to a grocery store.

It’s a gap that’s clearly divided along racial lines. Toronto neighbourhoods with a higher percentage of Black residents are more likely to experience poor health outcomes—including contracting COVID-19—due to systemic racism that manifests in their over-representation among the frontline workforce (and lower likelihood of having paid sick days), housing insecurity, and rates of over-policing.

These same communities are also the most likely to experience food insecurity. The 2019 Who’s Hungry report from the Daily Bread Food Bank found food bank use in the city was far more concentrated in these regions than in the more affluent (and now more vaccinated) parts of Toronto.

The Stop is located in Davenport West, a historically low-income community that’s facing increasing rates of COVID and has been labelled a COVID “hot spot.”

We’ve continued to offer vital food services to our community members under strict safety protocols, but these deep divides in our city can’t be solved with a community food program.

We need a rapid, targeted strategy to bring vaccines to those who need them most: hot spot communities, essential frontline workers, newcomers, multi-generational households, racialized people, people experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities.

We don’t need a strategy like the one we have: where affluent people who are able to stay home are prioritized.

Then, we need to address why we’ve been content to let these gaps widen over decades. If we don’t, the cycle will simply continue.