Downtown adventures: harsh realities of post-pandemic city life

The next time you’re in a big city take a look at the people lining up for a bus, train or streetcar.

Specifically, look at the type of people who are lining up. Are they old? Young? What ethnicity do you think they are? Which culture do they come from? What are they wearing? Do they look happy or sad, stressed or calm?

In my city Toronto, the population is very ethnically diverse. It’s one of the perks, living in this city; we have exposure to a vast repertoire of cultural cuisines, festivals, art and religion. The city is vibrant, bustling and very colourful.

At no time is this more evident than when you scan a group of people waiting for mass transit. So many cultures are represented in a lineup of city inhabitants waiting for a bus.

I saw such a lineup recently when I was on College St near the U of T campus, Kensington Market and Chinatown. That location could, theoretically, be considered part of the downtown core (sort of. It’s slightly north of the downtown core). After finding a municipal parking lot, I wandered around the area to find a coffee shop.

The Second Cup Coffee Company was opposite the little church I photographed and featured on my true (not the fake, impersonated) Instagram account ⬇️: (there are 4 pictures so click to see) see

While walking to the coffee shop I observed the aforementioned lineup. It was huge, I’d guess about 60-70 people with new ones joining the end of the line. But it wasn’t a regular line, the kind that fades into the background as part of the city landscape. This line had an odd vibe.

For one thing, it was an orderly line featuring one person behind the other, many with grocery carts, empty baby strollers or bikes. I thought it was a little strange at first that the line was so orderly. I reflected on the school children in my neighbourhood and their seemingly disorganized method of lining up to wait for a bus or streetcar. Kids wait in little groups, huddled together as if talking to one another but really scanning their phones in their hands… Nothing seems organized at the bus stops in my ‘hood, not like the line I observed here on College St.

I also observed the line was calm and very quiet. Few people were there as a couple or group, most were individuals, so there wasn’t a lot of chatter. People were patiently standing in the cool sunshine, waiting. Most weren’t even looking at their phones.


I looked for the bus stop sign and saw it far away at a traffic signal. The line spanned about two blocks.

They’re never all going to fit on the bus, I thought, once again wondering about the inadequacy of the transit system in this city.

It was at that moment, as I crossed the street and ended up at the front of the line, when I noticed two people from that line step into a storefront. The rest of the line inched forward a bit.

I checked the sign above the store.


Seems these people in the line were not waiting for mass transit. These people were waiting to enter the local food bank.


When I got to my coffee shop, I reflected on the people in the line. Many looked like me; clean clothes, sometimes with a phone in hand, warm coat, grocery bag or buggy, maybe a bike with a basket… What I mean by this is none of the people fit the traditional or expected image of homelessness. These people lining up patiently to step into the food bank were, I presume, regular folk with homes, with jobs, with families, probably with kids or grandkids in school…

Rents are sky-high in Toronto as they are in many places, and continually going up. People are struggling to pay the equally sky-high utilities, which these days require internet and mobile phone connections. No wonder at the end of the day there’s nothing left for food.

The statistics on food insecurity, which is the politically correct term that replaces hunger, is grim, and it affects everyone, not just the city dwellers in Toronto. (Article published November 2022.)

I can tell that many items I used to buy pre-pandemic are marked up so high I don’t by buy them until they are on sale. I’m talking about regular items like tea, coffee, even cereal. Don’t even mention produce (which rarely goes on sale; only highly processed items get marked down to buy two get one free, or at half price). Some boxes of those sugary, highly processed cereals the kids like to much, are now priced at $10.99 (up at least 50%) and that’s not even the family sized box.


How’s that for a little perspective?

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Thank you for stopping by. It takes but a moment to google your local food bank and make a donation.


11 thoughts on “Downtown adventures: harsh realities of post-pandemic city life

  1. I used to volunteer frequently at one of the food banks here, so I knew immediately when you described the line what this was. Weird how perspective really changes how you read and interact. So, I’d add to not only give to the food bank, but also consider volunteering, if there’s time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was so difficult during the many lockdowns in this region to volunteer… they actually shut people out and lost a lot of the usual volunteers. They made it so complicated…

      But yes, agreed. I know every pop-up market that happens in the local neighbourhoods gives food to the food banks, and my kids’ schools do regular food drives and also senior’s drives for the senior residences, which we always contribute to as well. It counts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, it is scary! Here, the prices of some products, like eggs and meat, have increased noticeably. We are only two people in out household and the grocery bill has gone up at least half since pre pandemic times.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah it’s definitely a challenge to eat as healthy as possible, I tend to spend about $400-$600 a month on groceries. That’s insane to me, but better than hearing coworkers eating nothing but processed food or McDonald’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I glimpsed into the food bank on my way by and I saw 2/3 of the store filled with fresh produce which made me really happy. 😊
      It means they’re getting financial donations as well so they can go shopping for the produce. That’s something to keep in mind when we donate I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice twist! I was just starting to wonder why SO many people would be waiting for the bus. I know Toronto is big, but wow… and then it made sense.

    Yeah… where I live, the cost of food is not as high, but still our food budget gets stretched each month. It’s no wonder more and more people are turning to food banks. I’m no economist, but surely there’s a better way to make food more accessible to all!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s terrifying. Things in the UK are just as bad. In my town there are four food banks. So many people are struggling and many industries are striking for fairer pay.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So common Claudette. I find with the cost of food being what it is I am incredibly grateful that I qualify for no cost healthcare coverage. I can still buy healthy food and walk away from the processed crap if I choose because of that. I know and see many who cannot and it’s frightening.

    Liked by 1 person

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