Metro donates perishable items as some striking workers say they rely on food banks

Click to play video: 'Metro donates food to charity amid GTA strike'
Metro donates food to charity amid GTA strike
WATCH: Metro donates food to charity amid GTA strike – Aug 1, 2023

As 3,700 workers on the picket lines remain outside 27 Metro grocery store locations asking for fair wages, the company is donating some of its perishable food items to food banks.

Still, some Metro workers say they’ve had to access food banks due to low wages.

“Toronto is an expensive city, so many of our members use food banks; we have several that live in community housing,” said Mike Strang, a veteran Metro employee.

In an email, the company told Global News, “all perishables products that could still be sold have been transferred to other stores. Those that can’t be sold but are still good for consumption are donated to food banks.”

While the gesture is considered one of goodwill, given the situation in its stores, one expert thinks it falls flat.

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“The way for all companies — not just Metro — but the way for all businesses to support the fight against food insecurity in this country is to make sure that they’re paying their workers adequately,” said Valerie Tarasuk, a professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.

Tarasuk estimates that in the province of Ontario, at least one in five people are food insecure, while in its latest quarter, Metro’s profits rose 10.4 per cent to $218.8 million up from $198.1 million in the same quarter last year.

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“Food insecurity in Canada and in Ontario is at a record high. We have never had as many people living in food-insecure situations as we do right now,” she said. “It’s a real problem that we’ve got record profits in the face of also record food insecurity in this country.”

Some striking Metro workers told Global News their health benefits had been paused since the strike began on Saturday. The grocery store did not respond to questions about the change on Tuesday evening.

Click to play video: 'Metro grocery store strike in the Toronto-area for the third straight day'
Metro grocery store strike in the Toronto-area for the third straight day

Strang, who is the head grocery clerk, noted that colleagues often talk about the best deals at other stores because they cannot afford to shop at their own workplace.

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“Most of us can’t even afford to shop at Metro. We have to do flyer-hopping, seeing who has what for sale, and instead of doing one grocery shop, we’re doing two or three because we have to go to multiple locations. You have to penny-pinch,” he said.

While Tarasuk acknowledged the desire to donate food, she noted that it happening while workers are on a picket line, talking about their inability to buy groceries at Metro, or relying on food banks, says a lot about the company’s operations.

“I think it’s great that they’re donating food that they can’t sell. It’s much better to donate it than to have it go to waste. But, unfortunately, they’re doing that because they’ve got workers on job action right now,” she said.

On Tuesday morning and afternoon, the Daily Bread Food Bank, the largest food bank in Toronto, sent trucks around to different Metro locations to collect the items. From the 89 Gould store, the truck was filled with two large containers as it carried on to collect more deliveries. Daily Bread’s CEO Neil Hetherington says he’s disappointed this happened amid a job action, but some food is coming of it.

“Out of this difficult circumstance is the fact that both the union and the employer have said it makes fundamental sense that goods that are perishable get to the Daily Bread Food Bank so we can get it to individuals all across the city who are currently experiencing poverty,” he said.

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As for negotiations between the two sides, sources tell Global News that a deal is no closer to being reached.

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