B.C. soup kitchens, food banks struggling with increased demand, decreased donations

Click to play video: 'Food banks and soup kitchens struggle to meet demand amid inflation'
Food banks and soup kitchens struggle to meet demand amid inflation
It's not just families feeling the pinch as the cost of living rises. As Kylie Stanton reports, food banks and soup kitchens are struggling to provide for a growing number of people, as donations dwindle. – Sep 20, 2022

Soup kitchens and food banks in British Columbia are struggling with increased demand and decreased donations as inflation continues to drive up the cost of living — including food prices.

Since 2019 — before the pandemic — the Rainbow Kitchen in Victoria said it has seen double the demand for its lunch program. Donations, however, have wavered leading to the meal and grocery provider’s increased reliance on purchasing goods.

“On a busy day, we can serve about 250 lunches, which means we need way more food, way more donations, way more packaging,” front house manager Ray Oelke told Global News.

“It’s just meant an insane increase in the amount of money it takes to keep this place running.”

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The Rainbow Kitchen is not alone; according to Food Banks BC, the number of new clients accessing its 105-member hunger relief agencies has increased 50 per cent between December 2021 and March.

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At the Goldstream Food Bank in Victoria, demand is up 67 per cent while donations are down nearly a third, said vice-president Walter Dubeau.

“Where we used to get six or seven banana boxes of food, we now get one or two banana boxes of food. It makes it hard to keep the shelves stocked up,” he said Tuesday of his typical donation suppliers.

“I think the demand going up is related to what’s going on with the economy — we’ve been hit pretty hard with the price of gas rising to where it was, to rent going up. There’s less and less disposable income.”

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Rejean Bussieres, a client and volunteer at the Rainbow Kitchen, said his visits “keeps me going.”

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“Being fed for free frees me from certain financial burdens and gives me more time and energy to volunteer not only here at the Rainbow Kitchen but elsewhere as well,” he said.

“Socially, the need is multiplying rapidly with the dismantlement of families, and since the confinement, the working middle class has been losing their jobs … the Rainbow Kitchen is holding up a heavy burden.”

Statistics Canada figures released Tuesday show an increase of 10.8 per cent in grocery prices last month compared to August 2021 — the fastest pace recorded since 1981. The agency cited extreme weather, higher input costs, disrupted global supply chains and Russia’s war in Ukraine as factors driving food prices higher.

Baked goods prices, had increased 15.4 per cent) in that timeframe, it said, fresh fruit had jumped 13.2 per cent, and condiments, spices and vinegar were up 17.2 per cent.

– With files from Global News’ Craig Lord and Elizabeth McSheffrey

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