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Higher food prices being felt in Saskatoon

Watch above: Higher food prices, especially for fresh produce, is being partially blamed on a weakening loonie. As Calvin To reports, it’s impacting those in Saskatoon who can least afford the increase.

SASKATOON – People in Saskatoon are feeling the pinch from higher grocery prices. For the past several months, prices have been increasing, a main factor being the weakening Canadian dollar.

Produce is affected the most, with a recent study from the University of Guelph suggesting an increase around twice the rate of inflation.

“[I] might end up making modifications to the recipes that may be involved. So maybe going meatless, that seems to help, since meat tends to be the more expensive item,” says Chantell Kelly, the program assistant for Kids First, a community kitchen. Kelly regularly spends two to three hours a week shopping for groceries.

READ MORE: Big jump looms for fruit and veggie prices as loonie crashes

According to community experts, rising food prices affect low income families the most. They’re not the only ones who might be put in a financial crunch because of expensive groceries.

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“Everyone is affected,” says Nicole Ermine, who manages Good Food Junction, a grocery store offering fresh local meat and produce in the city’s core neighbourhood. She emphasizes that seniors are among the most affected.

“If you really only have very little left for your food budget at the end of the month when you’ve paid off all your bills, you’re definitely going to feel a five per cent increase in fruits and vegetables,” says Laurie O’Connor, the executive director of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre.

She says the food bank hasn’t seen a drop in donations yet, but is welcoming new donations from people who would like to help.

Storeowners are also faced with a tightening budget. Rajesh Patel, owner of Greg’s Grocery Plus, says he’s seen a decline in the number of customers in his store because of higher prices.

“It’s not good,” he says, “not good at all.”

When he bought the store a few years ago, he had 500 customers a day. That number has now dropped to 400 and with margins shrinking, his bottom line is creeping higher and higher.

The good news is that dairy is mostly produced in Canada, so analysts are expecting prices to stay flat, or even decrease.