Some Tri-Cities families are losing the fight against high food costs. Here's what they're doing about it. (Copy-1)
Posted on August 25, 2023 by
Some Tri-Cities families are losing the fight against high food costs. Here's what they're doing about it.
More people are turning to a Tri-Cities non-profit's food bank to make ends meet.
By Diane Strandberg ● Tri-City News ● Local News ● August 24, 2023.
You open up a package to only find seven chicken thighs when there used to be eight.
And, you're paying more. That can of tomato sauce that you depend on to stretch your food budget costs 25 per cent more compared to a year ago. You don't buy the fancy fruit, baked goods or treats any more and you wince when the cashier hands you the receipt.
That's the story of shopping in B.C. grocery stores during this post-pandemic period of high inflation.
But for many Tri-Cities families, including two-parent families with jobs, the situation is even more dire.
Without a trip to the food bank at SHARE Family and Community Services, these anxious parents would see their kids go hungry.
Tears of 'shame' for some
"We try to do our best and say there's no shame in this. All of us are struggling right now. It's such a hit on people's dignity and pride," SHARE CEO Claire MacLean told the Tri-City News. "We're doing what we can to make it easier for them."
Buy a ticket now to the SHARE Family and Community Services 50/50 raffle. See the current jackpot here.
In the last several months, the food bank that distributes to families in Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam has seen a 50 per cent increase in clients with 100 new families registering each month. The price of groceries grew 8.5 per cent in July compared with last year, down from a 9.1 per cent year-over-year gain in June, according to Statistics Canada. But that's piled on top of big jumps in food prices last year, plus high housing costs and gas, which is currently over $2 per litre.
MacLean said staff and volunteers have noticed that people who stopped using the food bank because they got jobs are now coming back because they can't make ends meet with all the costs adding up. "They’re devastated; a lot of them are just crying, they can't believe they're back here. They've worked so hard," she explained. "One of our clients said, 'I did everything right.' They've been saving, and they just can't do it with the cost of living right now."
One man, too embarrassed to come forward, waited until everyone left before walking up to choose food from the available selection of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and dried goods. "He was crying," said MacLean. At that point, staff jumped in to make him feel welcome.
In many ways, the food bank as become a community centre of sorts, especially at the Port Moody distribution centre, where parents can play with their children in a social room. With mental health concerns on the rise, SHARE is also noticing an increase in the need for support. People are often too uncomfortable to accept counselling, but MacLean believes they may be more accepting once they feel more at home.
"We try to make it as comfortable as possible for everyone."
For example, people don't have to show proof of income to get some food and they choose their food instead of being handed a pre-packaged hamper.
Corporations filling gap
MacLean acknowledged that it's an ongoing challenge to pay for groceries to feed everyone. Tri-Cities residents are typically generous in donating cash and food, but corporations are now being asked fill in the gap left by cash-strapped families.
"I would say we're definitely relying on business more, corporate support for sure," said McLean. "The amount of extra cash people have is restricted, we're aware of that, definitely the generosity of corporations is important now.
"They employ people needing to use the food bank, which is the ironic part of it." While the current inflationary climate is taking a huge bite out of people's income, SHARE is hopeful that people who have the ability to give will still do so.
Remember Food Bank Campaign
SHARE is asking people to Fill the Food Bank, with a campaign on now until Sept. 24.
Here's how to participate:
Link to article originally posted on the Tri-City News website, tricitiynews.com.
For further information about SHARE Family & Community Services, please contact:
Darcel Moro (she/her)
Manager of Community Engagement
SHARE Family & Community Services