BC grocery banks brace for rising prices, demand for services


The monthly grocery bill from food charity Backpack Buddies has soared to $7,000 since the fall, while food banks are seeing increased demand.

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Soaring food prices are driving more people to BC food banks already feeling the “pinch” of fires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Visitor numbers at the Chilliwack Food Bank increased about 25 percent in the past month, estimates coordinator Don Armstrong. “At the same time, it’s harder to get groceries, even for us.”

Canada’s Food Price Report, released in December, forecast an overall increase in food prices of five to seven percent, or $966 for a family of four, in 2022 — the highest annual increase since the report’s inception 12 years ago. The jump comes on top of noticeable increases in 2021.

Data from Statistics Canada shows that the price of cucumber, beef loin, tomatoes and pears rose between 18 and 21 percent from September to November alone. The price of peppers increased by 27 percent.

Rates are expected to rise even further in the coming weeks as the US enacts a vaccination mandate at the border on Saturday, taking up to 16,000 unvaccinated truckers off the road, according to the Canadian Trucking Association. Canada’s mandate, which went into effect on January 15 and requires truckers to be vaccinated to avoid quarantine, is already causing supply chain disruptions.


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“Without the mandate, there was already stress in the supply chain,” Mick Tkac, production director for SPUD.ca, a food delivery service specializing in local and organic food, told Postmedia earlier this week. He cited cold weather across North America and staffing shortages due to COVID-19 for late shipments and gaps in product availability.

As a result, According to North American Produce Buyers, a truckload of fresh produce from California or Arizona to Canada now costs $9,500, up from $7,000 on average.

Rising food costs may be the tipping point in food insecurity for families, said Emily-anne King, co-executive director of Backpack Buddies, a nonprofit group that provides a bag of meals and snacks worth about 4,000 bc every weekend. Chr. provides school children.


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Since the fall, the program has seen a five to six percent increase in the cost of each bag of groceries, totaling about $7,000 a month. Some items are up just a few percent, while others are up 11 percent.

“All these food banks and nonprofits that provide food are essential,” she said, recalling a little girl telling her she only drank water over the weekend. “I worry most about children and families.”

Emily Anne King. [PNG Merlin Archive]
Emily Anne King. [PNG Merlin Archive] Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Food banks BC executive director Dan Huang-Taylor said food banks need to buy food that is not donated. Increasing costs will limit their ability to do so.

“If a Tafel has to put more money into purchases, the money can’t go that far,” he said.

The high cost of living coupled with pandemic and supply chain challenges have put people in an “increasingly precarious position,” he said. “The smallest change in a weekly grocery bill can be significant.”


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The price hikes are “scary” for both customers and the food bank because they feel “out of control,” said Mariana Borsuk-Gudz, Squamish Food Bank program coordinator. “As it goes up, we expect to see more people. It pushes people who are on the verge of food insecurity.”

Squamish operates a food reclamation program to secure perishable foods such as produce and dairy, but is required to purchase non-perishable foods. The board is set up like a small grocery store.

The Squamish Food Bank.
The Squamish Food Bank. Photo by Submitted Photo – Mariana Borsuk /PNG

In Merritt, where flooding has devastated many neighborhoods, donations so far have helped stave off the effects of price increases, inventory specialist Edwin Feldmann said.

During wildfire season, the board helped provide resources to the people of Lytton and Boston Bar. “We didn’t even have time to reorganize before the flood came.”


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Due to fires, floods and the pandemic, families using the panel have increased greatly.

“Brutal is a good word for it,” Feldmann said.

In Chilliwack, Armstrong said many BC food banks have been stretched by additional demand from natural disasters.

“We’re starting to feel the pinch now,” he said. In order to get supplies, food banks may need to change the products they supply and switch to more “no-name” brands. “We used to be able to buy $3 worth of groceries with a $1 donation to the food bank, but I’d say it’s closer to $2 now.”

Armstrong stressed that a cash donation still goes further than donated food, as buying in bulk allows food banks to get better prices.

“We find a way. Even if the money isn’t there, we’ll find a way to feed people,” he said.

  1. Ashley Sugar, market manager at Organic Acres on Main Street, said she encourages customers to try local, seasonal foods that are less affected by supply chain challenges.

    COVID-19: Product prices are expected to rise in BC when the trucker vaccination regulation goes into effect

  2. Emily-anne King, vice president of the Backpack Buddies charity, which helps hungry BC school children, is pictured September 2 at her camp in North Vancouver.

    ‘Perfect Storm’ will push up food prices in BC





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