Larger meals costs imply extra want, fewer donations at Guelph Meals Financial institution
Food prices in Guelph and across the country have been on the rise — something especially impacting the city’s more vulnerable residents.
Anyone who has been to a grocery store as of late has noticed prices are higher than what they were not too long ago. According to Statistics Canada, the price of food in the country rose 9.7 per cent between April 2021 and April 2022, the largest increase seen since 1981.
New survey data released by the federal agency last week indicates that when asked which part of their lives were most affected by rising prices, 43 per cent of respondents pointed to food.
Pauline Cripps, the administrator of the Guelph Food Bank, says those rising food costs have hit the organization “on two different sides of the coin.”
“On one side, we’re obviously seeing an increase in the number of people coming to us for support and coming to our partners for support because, obviously, the cost of food is rising and those that could maybe just afford food beforehand are finding it even more difficult,” she said, adding people who had stopped using the food bank have returned, and those who may not have needed it as often are now coming more frequently.
Regular Guelph Food Bank volunteer Elizabeth Davidson packs hampers at the Crimea Street warehouse earlier this year. | Metroland file photo
“We are also seeing another concerning impact on our end, which is our shelves.”
Cripps said with food prices being higher, donations are also down, meaning less food is available for those in need.
“With the cost of food being as high as it is, we are seeing where someone who might have brought in two cans of tuna in the past, maybe now they’re just bringing one because the cost is the same.”
Cripps said the past year has also seen the Guelph Food Bank do something it had previously not needed to do in its three-decade history: buy the food needed to stock its shelves.
“We just ordered a ton of nonperishable foods to keep our shelves full,” she noted.
CLOSER TO HOME
Cripps said another recently launched program is showing just how bad food accessibility is getting for some in Guelph.
Launched earlier this year, the Hub and Spoke Collaborative Pilot Project sees items distributed not through the food bank itself, but rather via community organizations closer to home.
“With that, we’ve seen an even larger uptick in the number of people going into those locations,” Cripps said.
“The amount of food that we’re distributing through that, on top of our independent numbers, it’s really shining a big light on the fullness of the issues that we’re experiencing in this community right now.”
Since the program launched, the number of people utilizing the food bank services, either at the main Crimea Street location or at a local hub, has grown by more than 30 per cent, going from 1,407 people served in March 2021 to 1,844 in March 2022.
Lemon balm and mint grow in their own planters outside the front entrance to the West Willow Village Neighbourhood Group’s co-op garden. The herbs are being kept outside of the main garden so their weed-like growth doesn’t impact the produce being grown there. | Graeme McNaughton/Metroland
One of those organizations taking part in the pilot project is the West Willow Village Neighbourhood Group, with 131 residents using those services in March. Linda Busuttil, the group’s neighbourhood development co-ordinator, said rising food costs have had a big impact on many community members.
One way West Willow has helped alleviate some of those pressures is its village co-op garden, next to St. Peter Catholic School, which currently has 70 families gardening, feeding approximately 200 people.
Launched last year, the popular program has proven valuable for community members hard hit by high food prices. Busuttil pointed to a gardener last year holding up a pepper they had grown and remarking “there’s no way I could afford this at the grocery store.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Rising food costs have been hard to ignore the past couple of months. While some residents can grin and bear a larger credit card bill, the Mercury Tribune wanted to see how families who are already forced to pinch pennies are coping.
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