Canadian food banks fear perfect storm from rising produce prices

MONTREAL -- Canadian food banks hope that the pinch they're feeling from rising food prices isn't snowballing into a full-fledged crisis.

See Full Article

While each agency has unique circumstances, many say higher prices during the peak winter period are limiting how much food they can purchase and having an impact on donations while also spurring a greater demand for their services.

"The difficult thing for any food bank is trying to prepare for the year ahead and what might happen in a situation like that," said Michael Maidment, executive director of the Ottawa Food Bank.

Fresh produce prices began to surge after Christmas as adverse weather in U.S. growing regions and a weaker Canadian dollar caused the cost of imports to soar. Some food banks shifted what they handed out, turning more to canned and frozen goods. Most tried to access locally grown produce, particularly root vegetables.

But Maidment said vegetable vendors have warned to expect higher prices for those items too due to the greater demand.

A case in point -- the price of Ontario-grown carrots, a common replacement for higher priced alternatives, has surged 18 per cent in two weeks, Maidment said.

That will put a strain on his food bank's $50,000 fresh produce budget, which is designed provide enough food for spring, when the facility begins to grow its own vegetables with the help of volunteers.

"We expected the price would increase after the Canadian stock was depleted and then we were importing ... but we've obviously seen it much sooner than that."

That's not good news for the head of the Edmonton Food Bank, who has delayed putting in an order for carrots because the total bill has doubled -- right when there are more mouths to feed.

The economic downturn in Alberta due to the global oil price plunge has resulted in a whopping 60 per cent increase in the number of people turning to the food bank -- 19,000 people used the Edmonton facility in December, many of whom have lost their jobs in recent months.

"When the economy is tight and people are losing their jobs, it's not a good scenario when costs of some very basic things like nutritional food go up," Marjorie Bencz said in an interview.

She expects the challenges will only worsen with more children, seniors, working poor and scores of new refugee families arriving weekly.

The food bank relies heavily on donations, but it's now seeing less produce coming in from grocery stores due to the high costs -- the stores themselves are being more judicious about their purchases of fresh produce from the U.S. amid climbing prices and the low loonie.

Montreal's Moisson food bank says donations of fresh fruit and vegetables in the last month were five times lower than normal as wholesalers and food chains struggle to find affordable produce. Quality has also suffered, said executive director Julie Bourbonniere.

It's all happening as high food prices drive more and more people to its 250 local food bank partners.

"January just hit us like a ton of bricks," she said.

With prices so unstable, wholesalers won't even quote prices until shortly before delivery, says Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank.

"We've been told we're going to pay more so it's going to affect us," said executive director Gail Nyberg.

The food bank said it didn't meet its Christmas donation campaign goal for the first time in five years as food donations fell by one-third.

"Even people buying food to donate to the food bank are feeling the pinch," she said.

Canada's 800 food banks distribute 200 million pounds of food annually to more than 850,000 Canadians, said Food Banks Canada. Since the 2008 recession, food bank use has increased 26 per cent.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Florida man pleads guilty to mailing bombs to Trump foes

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of President Donald Trump in a wave of attacks that harmed no one but spread fear of political violence across the U.S. Source
  • Study: About 4 per cent of women are pregnant when jailed

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- About 4 per cent of women incarcerated in state prisons across the U.S. were pregnant when they were jailed, according to a new study released Thursday that researchers hope will help lawmakers and prisons better consider the health of women behind bars. Source
  • Video shows teen's beating during West Virginia traffic stop

    World News CTV News
    CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A police dashcam video released Thursday shows a West Virginia police officer kicking and punching a handcuffed teenage boy on the ground and kneeling on his shoulder during a November traffic stop. Source
  • Cheetahs will not prosper in B.C.: panel rejects permit request for two big cats

    Canada News CTV News
    NELSON, B.C. -- The owners of two cheetahs will not be allowed to return the large, African cats to southeastern British Columbia to use them as ambassador animals promoting conservation of the endangered species. Following a multi-day hearing last fall, the Environmental Appeal Board, which considers issues raised under B.C. Source
  • Kenney promises referendum on equalization in 2021 if no pipeline progress

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- The leader of Alberta's United Conservatives is promising a referendum on equalization if there's no major progress on market-opening pipelines. Jason Kenney says if he becomes premier the matter would be put to voters on Oct. Source
  • 450 cocaine bricks worth $38M found at Philadelphia port

    World News CTV News
    PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. customs officials say drug dogs sniffed out Philadelphia's largest seizure of cocaine in more than two decades. Local, state and federal law enforcement officials said Thursday that 450 bricks of cocaine were found inside 13 duffel bags in a shipping container. Source
  • In major policy shift, U.S. abruptly endorses Israel's Golan sovereignty

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly declared Thursday the U.S. will recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, a major shift in American policy that gives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a political boost a month before what is expected to be a close election. Source
  • Investigation into Parkland shooting expands to include principal

    World News CTV News
    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - An investigation of a Florida school shooting that left 17 dead last year is expanding to include the school's principal. Broward County Public Schools announced Thursday that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson will remain at the school, though his responsibilities are being reassigned. Source
  • Alberta Liberals would add seats for Indigenous MLAs, make juries representative

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan says he would improve child welfare, education and justice for Indigenous people if his party were to win the April 16 election. Khan says a Liberal government would create regional Indigenous child protection offices, run by Indigenous groups, to help keep children in their home communities. Source
  • Cummings: Ivanka Trump not saving all official email

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a powerful White House aide, is not preserving all of her official email communications as required by federal law, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee said on Thursday. Source