The cost: a week of groceries at the Kensington Market in Toronto

This bike messenger delivers for two food delivery apps, but with an income of $800-1200 a month, his budget is limited

The buyer: Craig Mazzali, a 45-year-old bicycle messenger in Toronto.

The story: I work as a bicycle courier for two delivery apps. I work six days a week, about six or seven hours a day. I take Monday off because people are usually on weekends and don’t order that much. I make about $800 to $1,200 a month.

My job gets a little dangerous in the winter. There are certain days, when it’s really snowing or cold, where it’s just not worth it, so I don’t work that much. But sometimes I have to work in really bad weather to make better money, because they pay us more, about three to five dollars extra per order, which is fantastic. But it is not a pleasant experience at all. Before the pandemic I would get cash tips, but that’s not so popular anymore. Some people tip via the app, but I fear that tips will disappear.

I live in a one bedroom apartment in Kensington Market, Toronto. I have five other roommates. I spend about $60 to $70 on groceries a week. I shop at FreshCo, a discount supermarket, and the independent grocers in Kensington Market. I usually make pasta dishes and bean tortillas. When I’ve had a good week and made more money, I’ll buy some meat, like steak or salmon. Otherwise I eat vegetarian.

As a bicycle courier, food is very important. If you don’t eat right, it’s a struggle to work. When the pandemic hit, I noticed food prices rising. I couldn’t buy as much as I used to with my grocery budget. I rely more on my sister to lend me money or buy me meals. It’s embarrassing and also stressful because then it’s another struggle to pay her back and support myself.

I end up skipping meals two or three times a week. There are walk-in centers that offer free meals. Sometimes I go there but I see the food and I just can’t digest it. It’s things like sausages and eggs. Food that doesn’t make me feel good. Maybe it’s better I just stuff it down my throat, but I can’t. I feel sick of it.

Mutual Help Facebook groups have also been a big help. I go there a few times a month to get food. People will post additional meals or stock items for free that they offer for free. Or I post in the group for help with food donations or money. If it’s a bad month, I might ask my sister for help once or twice a week. When I’m really stuck, I skip meals, or don’t eat at all because I don’t have enough to eat. Since the pandemic, my diet has been very bad.

As told to Andrea Yu

Weekly shopping list:

Steel Cut Oats: $5
Bread: $4
Cheese: $7
Lemon: $0.69
Garlic: $2.45
Spinach: $4
Broccoli: $2.50
Cheese: $7
NY loin: $9
Tortillas: $7
Pasta: $2.49
Fried Black Beans: $6
Tomatoes: $3.49

Total: $60.62

This story is part of a series on food insecurity in Canada funded by the Maple Leaf Center for Action on Food Securityin cooperation with Community Food Centers Canada

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