Edmonton charities are feeling the pinch as inflation swells to an 18-year excessive
As Canadian inflation climbs to its highest level in nearly two decades, charities are finding it harder to feed some of Edmonton’s most vulnerable populations.
In the past year alone, food prices rose four percent, according to Statistics Canada.
“When prices rise, it becomes more difficult, if not impossible, for many households and families to afford healthy food,” said Kristine Kowalchuk, spokesperson for Food for Thought, a nonprofit program that provides food to hungry school children in Edmonton.
During COVID-19, the cost of many foods increased significantly.
From September 2019 to September 2020, meat prices rose noticeably, chicken by 12 percent and bacon by 17 percent.
The Edmonton Food Bank helps 20,000 people a month. (John Robertson / CBC)
According to Statistics Canada, the cost of cooking oil has also increased by 24 percent in the past two years. However, an Edmonton charity said the local price had almost doubled.
At the start of the pandemic, the nonprofit Canadian Volunteers United in Action (CANAVUA) paid $ 21 for a 16-liter jug of rapeseed oil. Today it costs $ 39.
“That’s too much,” said Dicky Dikamba, General Manager of CANAVUA.
The francophone charity feeds roughly more than 1,000 people a week. The organization also has a food truck that goes to various locations around the city to deliver hot meals to anyone who needs them.
While prices have risen, Dikamba said government funding has also dried up.
“It’s not easy, but we’re still working.”
One of the driving factors behind rising food costs is the rising price of gas, which is affecting the cost of transporting food, said Chetan Dave, an economics professor at the University of Alberta, in an email to CBC.
In the past year alone, gas prices have increased by more than 30 percent, according to Statistics Canada.
One of the main drivers of inflation is the supply chain bottlenecks caused by the pandemic, he said.
Rising gas prices have significantly increased the cost of food deliveries for Edmonton’s Food Bank. The organization, Canada’s oldest food bank, serves at least 20,000 people in the city every month.
Costs could stimulate change
Tamisan Bencz-Knight, the food bank’s manager for strategic relationships and partnerships, said on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active it will be more difficult for many Edmontoners to stretch their dollars and pay for essentials.
“We’re assuming some of these people are coughing, which is fine. That’s why we’re here as an organization.”
The rise in food prices this fall is due to a summer of widespread drought across western Canada.
“We are in this situation right now, in which the harvest is failing. The farmers are going bankrupt, ”said Kristine Kowalchuk, spokeswoman for Food for Thought.
She hopes the threat of climate change will drive change and make food production more resilient and sustainable.
“What we urgently need is a widespread shift away from this type of food system towards a healthy and local one.”