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Ottawa Food Bank afraid of rising need amid increasing costs, inflation rate

CEO Rachael Wilson says as food prices rise, more people will have to turn to social services to put food on their table.
2021-10-31 ottawa food bank
An Ottawa Food Bank trolley. (Photo/Ottawa Food Bank Facebook)

As Canada sees an annual inflation rate that tops 5 per cent, the Ottawa Food Bank is afraid more residents will be forced to turn to its service in order to put food on their table.

A Statistics Canada report released on Wednesday, February 16 shows Canada's annual inflation rate rose to 5.1 per cent in January compared to a 4.8 per cent gain in December 2021.

The report indicates higher prices for housing and gasoline are major drivers, but so is the rising price of groceries amid higher shipping costs linked to global supply chain issues.

Prices for groceries in January were up year-over-year by 6.5 per cent, marking the largest yearly increase since May 2009.

The report shows prices for fresh or frozen beef were up by 13 per cent while fresh or frozen chicken was up 9 per cent. Moreover, fish was up by nearly 8 per cent.

Margarine was up 16.5 per cent while condiments — including spices and vinegars — were up 12 per cent, compared to January 2021.

Fresh fruit was up more than 8 per cent while bakery goods were up more than 7 per cent.

"My chest gets a little tight when I hear those numbers," Ottawa Food Bank CEO Rachael Wilson said, as the items and prices were listed off on The Sam Laprade Show. "As [Laprade was] listing the things off, I was thinking, 'Those are all things that we are buying.'"

Wilson said many people don't realize the Ottawa Food Bank purchases all of these items — including frozen fish, frozen beef, fresh chicken, fruits and vegetables — every single month.

"Now, we buy them in large quantities, but we're still seeing our prices going up," she said. "If prices are going up for us, they're going up for people in their homes, as well, which means more people are having to turn to a food bank in order to put food on their table."

Even though "Freedom Convoy" protesters continue occupying Ottawa's downtown core for a third week, Wilson said the demonstrations haven't had a huge impact on the food bank.

"Thankfully, we haven't been affected by the protests downtown, the Ottawa Food Bank itself," she said. "But we know that many of our agencies that are located in the downtown core have been affected in one way or another.

"The Ottawa Food Bank is really focused on making sure that we support the member agencies and support the people who need the food most, and we'll continue to do that."

At the moment, she said the Ottawa Food Bank serves roughly 44,000 people every month, adding that 37 per cent of those people are children. It's a number that continues rising.

"It's starting to creep up," she said. "We suspect with as economic impacts of COVID continue that we'll continue to see those numbers rise, as well."

Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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