Advertisement

Alberta food banks see record demand amid inflation, rising fuel and food costs

Click to play video: 'Alberta food banks see record demand amid inflation, rising fuel and food costs' Alberta food banks see record demand amid inflation, rising fuel and food costs
Alberta food banks are experiencing intense demand and are asking for more communities to donate. Sarah Komadina has more – Jul 28, 2022

In June, Edmonton’s Food Bank saw the highest number of people ever seeking help through its food hamper program.

Last month, 35,000 people needed hampers, which is a 97 per cent increase from June 2020.

“It’s very challenging,” said executive director Marjorie Bencz.

“Our phone lines are really busy, we’re very busy packing hampers, we’re very busy serving the 300 agencies, churches and other organizations that rely on our services.”

Read more: Rising inflation eating into young Canadians’ disposable income: ‘It’s insane’

Bencz attributes the massive spike in need to a “perfect storm” of factors, including impacts from the pandemic, inflation, rising food and fuel costs, and an influx of newcomers from Ukraine.

Story continues below advertisement

She said it’s a lot for volunteers, staff and partner agencies to respond to.

“We don’t receive government funding so we rely on the community for volunteers (and) monetary donations,” Bencz said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta food banks see 30% jump in demand since 2019' Alberta food banks see 30% jump in demand since 2019
Alberta food banks see 30% jump in demand since 2019 – Oct 28, 2021

The situation is similarly dire across Alberta.

“As the provincial association of food banks, we represent 107 across the province, and I can confidently say that all 107 are seeing an alarming increase in the need for their services,” said Arianna Scott, CEO of Food Banks Alberta.

Click to play video: '‘We’re paying more for everything’: Canada’s inflation rate soars beyond predictions' ‘We’re paying more for everything’: Canada’s inflation rate soars beyond predictions
‘We’re paying more for everything’: Canada’s inflation rate soars beyond predictions – Apr 20, 2022

The very factors that are prompting more Albertans to reach out to food banks — rising utility costs, higher food prices, high gas prices — are also hurting food banks, Scott said.

Story continues below advertisement

“We do our best to keep costs low,” she said. “We are getting less food and distributing to more food banks.”

Scott said the number of food banks to which Food Banks Alberta distributes has increased 60 per cent since 2021.

She said the COVID-19 grant in 2020 was the first time food banks received direct government funding.

“Food banks are not the answer to food insecurity; we’re a gap filler.”

Read more: Canada should help people struggling with rising food costs, advocates say

The Leduc and District Food Bank Association is seeing an increase of 25 to 35 per cent of clients. Executive director Gert Reynar says many of those new clients have never used a food bank or needed any type of social services before.

“These are people who were making a good living but now the jobs aren’t there or their hours have been cut back or they haven’t gotten a raise to keep up with inflation, so they are finding it challenging to make it paycheque to paycheque,” Reynar said.

The rising costs could hurt food banks’ ability to support Albertans, Scott said, especially in rural areas.

Edmonton’s Food Bank has been relying on donations from last year, but that’s no longer sustainable.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Polling suggests inflation is No. 1 issue of concern for Albertans' Polling suggests inflation is No. 1 issue of concern for Albertans
Polling suggests inflation is No. 1 issue of concern for Albertans – Jul 1, 2022

The Opposition NDP wants the UCP government to make some changes to address the cost-of-living crisis.

“We are in the worst crisis of affordability in 40 years and Albertans need help today,” leader Rachel Notley said Thursday.

“The UCP has made a bad situation worse by increasing income taxes, property taxes, school fees, utilities, auto insurance, tuition, debt on student loans, park and camping fees, while also cutting benefits for families.”

Read more: Alberta consumers face ‘unprecedented’ utility costs

Notley said things like freezing post-secondary tuition, cutting interest on student loans and capping utilities would help Albertans get by.

Support and donations to Edmonton’s Food Bank can be made at the Heritage Festival, at grocery stores or online.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Advice for saving money as Albertans grapple with rising inflation' Advice for saving money as Albertans grapple with rising inflation
Advice for saving money as Albertans grapple with rising inflation – May 1, 2022

Sponsored content