Food Depot Alimentaire executive director Stéphane Sirois said the depot’s operating budget has skyrocketed due to a perfect storm of factors.
“It’s a triple whammy. Numbers are up, there are fewer donations and food is more expensive so we have to buy a lot more food just to maintain the same numbers,” he said in an interview on Monday.
The depot is a central resource that provides food to food banks and other community kitchens across the province.
The provincial government announced on Monday that it had provided the depot with $1 million in December 2022, and will provide it with another $1 million before the end of March so it can continue providing the same level of service.
“These funds will be used to purchase healthy foods such as vegetables, fruit, eggs, protein, dairy products and it will, of course, be equally delivered to food banks and soup kitchens throughout the province,” Health Minister Bruce Fitch said at the announcement.
Laurie Stewart, one of the board directors for the depot, has been involved in food banks in the province in various capacities for over two decades.
“We’re in the worst condition in the last two years than we have been since I joined,” he said on Monday.
He explained that supply chain issues meant that grocery stores had less stock to spare.
“Not only the prices have gone up, the food’s not coming in. The food’s not coming into the wholesalers, not coming into the stores. So it’s harder to get, more expensive,” he said.
Sirois is concerned about the impact a possible looming recession could have on food bank clientele.
“I’m always worried but this gives us, the $2 million, it gives us a cushion, some confidence to say, ‘OK, if numbers keep increasing this year, we can meet them,'” he said.
“If there’s a long recession, that’s another question but we’re confident this will help us meet demand.”
Stewart said food banks will need to prepare for a possible recession.
“People, no matter what their reason is, we have to be able to accept them and give them food so they can eat,” he said.