The Corner

Potemkin poorhouse

Re last night’s observation on 905,000 people visiting Toronto food banks, a lot of readers are very numbers-savvy:

The link seems to indicate 905k is total visits, not unique individuals. So if the same group of people are visiting 1x a day every day that’s ~2500 different people receiving food assistance, a far more reasonable and/or believable number (albeit one that doesn’t catch headlines, “.05% of the population of the greater Toronto area is dependent on food banks!”

All very likely, but you’re decoding. Which is my point. The Toronto Star didn’t talk about “unique individuals”, it said:

A total of 905,000 people visited food banks across the Greater Toronto Area in the past year, 40 per cent of them children. 

Why did the Star refer to “905,000 people”? As in Fred and Earl and Doris and Mabel and another 904,996 of them (including 350,000 children). Because it wants you to think there’s mass poverty out there on a scale Toronto didn’t witness even in the Depression. There isn’t. Another reader writes:

I live in Westchester County NY, an affluent county directly north of NY city with roughly 1 million inhabitants. I used to give some money to a group that ran food banks in this county. Then they started sending brochures saying that they were helping 250,000 people. Finding it a tad difficult to believe that a quarter of the population of this comfortable (to say the least) area needed help with food, I wrote to them as a contributor, asking them to explain the apparent anomaly. Evidently taking into account my privileged status as a contributor, they courteously failed to respond and I selfishly stopped giving them any money. So if you want to know who is responsible for those underfed urchins you see wandering around in this area, it’s me.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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