Food bank use remains high despite study showing prices easing

May 23, 2024 | Headlines, News, Provincial News

Although the Statistics Canada April Consumer Price Index (CPI) report said grocery prices are easing, Canadians and Food Banks Canada are saying they are still too high.

A Ledger survey taken between May 17 and 19 reported Canadians are unhappy with the cost of groceries.

“Almost two-thirds of Canadians (64 per cent) feel as though the rate of inflation at the grocery store is getting worse compared to a year or two ago,” the online survey reported.

The survey, which had a margin of error of 2.5 per cent, also found only six per cent of Canadian adults think that food prices are improving in the country, while 64 per cent believe prices are getting worse.

Along with this study, Food Banks Canada released its Poverty Report Card 2024, which gave Ontario a D minus grade.

“With lacking action on affordable housing or expanding social services and programs, people in the province continue to see worsening conditions in 2024,” the report said. “For people living in the province, top solutions to their struggles include reducing food costs, strengthening health care, and reducing the cost of utilities.”

Hillary Fong, a Scarborough resident and logistics worker for DCL, said the D minus grade might not be low enough.

“According to what folks say, I’m sure it’s actually worse than a D minus,” she told Humber News.

The Poverty Report Card, when grading food insecurity, gave Ontario a failing grade of F for 2024, falling from a C minus in 2023. This was the largest drop in the report card comparison between the two years.

“Between December 2022 and December 2023, the overall price of goods and services in Ontario increased by 3.4 per cent; food increased by 4.1 per cent. While these rates are on par with or below the national average, many people in the province are still struggling to cope with these increased costs,” Food Banks Canada reported.

“Just over one-third of people in the province (34 per cent) worry about feeding themselves or their family. This figure is five percentage points higher than the national average.”

This contradicts the April CPI report released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday, which reported food prices have generally supported the decrease in CPI.

“While prices for food purchased from stores continue to increase, the index grew at a slower pace year over year in April (+1.4%) compared with March (+1.9%),” Statistics Canada said.

Statistics Canada said food prices were slowing down, but also said food prices grew 21.4 per cent from April 2021 to April 2024.

In Canada’s Food Price Report 2024, published annually, scholars from across the country came together to explore and forecast this year’s food inflation and CPI.

The report forecasted an increase in food prices for 2024, based on factors such as global warming and transportation costs. The report said the increase will be less intense than in previous years and potentially offer support to Canadian households.

Stuart Smyth, the chair of Agri-Food Innovation and Sustainability Enhancement at the University of Saskatchewan, said in a press release statement the easing inflation rate does provide some relief to consumers.

“The estimated increase of 2.5-4.5 per cent for 2024 provides customers with much-needed relief from the higher increases observed in previous years,” he said.

“They [Canadians] should expect to see a degree of stability in return to food prices. I am optimistic that the phrase ‘sticker-shock’ will become less commonly used throughout grocery stores in 2024,” Smyth said.

According to the Ledger survey, many Canadians do not agree.

The survey reported a majority of Canadians believe large grocery store chains are responsible for the increase in food prices and do not see the issue resolving anytime soon.

“Over one in four Canadians (29 per cent) blames the rising cost of groceries on an attempt by grocery chains to increase their profit margins,” the survey found.

The survey also found that 20 per cent of Canadians blame the federal government for the inflated price of groceries.

Fong said she believes there should be better oversight by the government when dealing with food corporations.

“As long as there is an incentive by corporations to exploit their workers and farmers and the absolute necessity of food, they will not lower them until there is an actual consequence,” she said.