Between the Pundits: Hungry for the truth - Macleans.ca

Between the Pundits: Hungry for the truth

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I waded into the whole poverty statistics rigmarole a few months back, after a Toronto Star editorial posited that “more than 905,000 across the Greater Toronto Area depended on food banks.” The claim was so outrageous that I hear Joe Atkinson clawed himself out of his own grave, dusted himself off and hopped the first trolley to One Yonge Street to inform his editorialists of the error. And in subsequent efforts, they did treat the figure—which represents the total number of visits to food banks across the GTA, not visitors—with slightly more respect. A “total of 905,000 people visited food banks across the Greater Toronto Area in the past year,” they wrote at Thanksgiving, which is… well, slightly closer to the truth, anyway.

But today, reacting to the Daily Bread Food Bank‘s latest annual report, the Star finally got it right. “Food bank use has risen by 5 per cent in the GTA in the past year to 952,883 visits,” they wrote. Perfect. Alas, the whole thing goes pear-shaped again in the very next sentence, which claims “more than 79,000 people now resort to a food bank every month.” The precise number is 79,407, for the record. I know because I went ahead and divided 952,883 by 12. They’ve more or less repeated the original error, in other words, but they’ve converted it from yearly to monthly form.

(Incidentally, for for future Star editorial use, the DBFB says “this year’s increase is attributed primarily to the opening of two new food banks and reflects Daily Bread’s increased capacity to meet the existing need as opposed to an increase in need.”)