Food banks struggling for donations amid increase in food prices

Grocery prices are on the rise again. Shauna Hunt takes a look at what is driving the increase in costs and the impact it’s having on food banks.

By Shauna Hunt and Meredith Bond

As the average shopper grapples with inflated prices at the grocery store, food banks are struggling to keep up with increased demand.

The costs of dairy products are expected to increase after the Canadian Dairy Farmer’s Association approved an increase of more than 2.5 per cent on the farm, meaning the price in-store could be much higher.

“Processors are alerting grocers that prices are going to increase. And typically, there is a two to one ratio,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a food policy expert.

“So if prices increase by 2.5 per cent on the farm, we’re expecting wholesale increases of up to 5 per cent. It really adds up.”

“In February, we saw a huge bump, and now we expect another bump as kids go back to school,” Charlebois said.

Charlebois adds that while the meat counter cost has dropped slightly, the prices of dry goods are also expected to remain high.

“The center of the store will remain a problem due to supply chain challenges. Costs are going up.”

These expenses come as food banks are seeing a drastic increase in clients. Executive Director of the Parkdale Community Food Bank, Kitty Raman-Costa, said they had seen a 150 per cent upsurge in clients between March 2020 and February 2022 and another sharp increase from late March until now.

“We’re now servicing about 8,000 to 9,000 families every single month. In March 2020, we serviced about 1,500 to 2,000 families monthly,” said Raman-Costa.

“Our costs are rising because … not only do we have to purchase more, but the cost of what we’re purchasing is quite significant.”

She adds that the food prices also impact the donations they’re receiving.

“Many donors in our community have to withdraw monthly contributions that we relied on to serve our community. We don’t receive any core funding from the government,” explained Raman-Costa.

“It’s becoming harder for community members to make contributions just because their living costs are increasing significantly.”

It’s even harder in the summertime to collect donations, added Raman-Costa.

“I would encourage people to also maybe put together a drive in their community, like a food drive. I find that donations and food drives are often a bit scarcer in the summer, just because schools and community groups do food drives around the holiday or fall. So if anyone feels compelled to put together a food drive within their community, that would be amazing.”

Raman-Costa said these include financial donations and donations of products, including perishable and non-perishable food, hygiene, menstrual products, baby products, and pet supplies.

While food prices are not expected to drop, there is optimism that food inflation will peak by the fall and start slowing down into the winter.

The Bank of Canada also raised its key interest rate by an entire percentage point to 2.50 per cent on Wednesday, citing inflationary pressures, among other factors.

“The bank is guarding against the risk that high inflation becomes entrenched because if it does, restoring price stability will require even higher interest rates, leading to a weaker economy,” it said.

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