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Desperate for food: Food banks in dire need as demand surges across B.C., Canada

Skyrocketing housing prices, inflation forcing more people to access food bank services
Tyson Elder, operations manager for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank, said the situation is getting desperate in face of food shortages and growing demand as inflation has cut into the budgets of more and more people. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A food bank serving the Saanich Peninsula area of Greater Victoria is appealing for donations while services across B.C. and Canada face growing demand due to inflation and other factors.

“We are getting a little bit desperate for food on the shelf,” said Tyson Elder, operations manager for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. “We are ordering a lot of food (from the warehouses of big grocery retailers), but we are getting shortened for a lot of things.” Pressing shortages include things like cereals.

Elder said the facility does not need money but actual product, in encouraging people to donate items. “We need food on the shelves right now,” he said. “When you are out shopping at the grocery store, grab a couple of extra items,” he said later. “It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just grab an extra box of cereal or an extra couple of cans. Case-lot sales are great. Buy a flat of soup for yourself, buy a flat of soup for us.”

Elder’s appeal comes against the backdrop of what resembles a vicious circle: shortages of various kinds such as labour and resources have raised sticker prices.

Figures released June 22 show that inflation in May rose 6.8 per cent compared to April and 7.7 per cent year-over-year, the largest yearly increase since January 1983. Higher inflation has not only cut into the purchasing power of Canadians but also forced many to access food banks.

RELATED: Food banks stretched thin as food prices rise, increasing hunger and food insecurity

Kirstin Beardsley, chief executive officer of Food Banks Canada, said in a release earlier in June that the majority of food banks in every region of Canada are already stretched to their limits, with demand expected to remain high throughout the summer months as more and more Canadians struggle to cope with rising inflation. In fact, Food Banks Canada released data showing that one-in-five Canadians now report going hungry, with 23 per cent reporting that they are eating less than they think they should because there isn’t enough money for food.

Elder has seen this first hand. “In the last two months, especially with inflation, we are seeing a lot of new faces, a lot of new families,” he said. “Recently, we have had our first Ukrainian (refugee) family access our services. Quite often, we hear people choosing between gas and groceries.” Many households accessing the food bank are also struggling with high housing costs in face of general inflation or other developments such as renoviction, said Elder.

“We are seeing people who are working hard, who are trying to support their family and they are coming in,” he said. “Our seniors’ numbers are going up all across the board. We have got big families, we have got migrant families, seniors, kids, everyone. People just need help feeding themselves and feeding their kids. It’s overwhelming how many families you see coming in who never thought they would be accessing the food bank.”

RELATED: Rising demand, prices; food supply chain disruptions impact Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank

In fact, people who had previously donated to the food bank are now using it, he said. “It’s scary that somebody who used to give us a couple hundred of bucks a year now doesn’t have that (money) and is now using our services,” he said.

“We are supported very well by the people of the Saanich Peninsula, but … there should be more (political) help. People shouldn’t be struggling. People shouldn’t have to ask for help. But it’s a hard question to answer who be supporting and helping these people.”

Elder said the staff and volunteers at the food bank are very passionate about what they do in trying to help as many people as they can. “I know that can be said about every food bank across B.C., but somewhere we are all falling short, not being able to help as many people as we need to or want to. I just don’t know where we can go from here.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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