Alberta monitoring food supplies for remote communities and food banks

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is reassuring people there isn’t a food shortage in the province and that it’s keeping an eye on demands in rural areas, Indigenous communities and food banks.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen says more people are working at home, take-out food orders are down and retail sales at grocery stores are up about 50 per cent.

“It is not business as usual. Albertans are making fewer trips to the grocery store and some have unnecessarily been stockpiling or bulk buying out of fear of future shortages,” Dreeshen said at a news conference Thursday.

There is no food shortage, he said, and retailers have taken steps to cut down on bulk buying by limiting the number of items that can be purchased, adjusting hours and ensuring seniors-only can shop early in the day.

“Our government is also co-ordinating with federal agencies to ensure Indigenous peoples have equal opportunity for health and safety and (are) not falling behind,” Dreeshen said.

“We are working with retailers on supply pressures for high-demand items and monitoring availability in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.”

Dreeshen said the biggest shortages right now include meat and items with a long shelf life such as canned goods and Kraft dinner.

He said food banks are suffering.

“Food banks here in Alberta have also seen a huge rise in requests for support and they expect this trend will continue. Unfortunately, as Albertans face great adversity, we have seen donations drop due to the economic impact of this current pandemic,” Dreeshen said.

“Our government is working closely with food banks across the province to understand their requirements and assess their short, medium and long-term needs to ensure they have necessary food supply.”

Dreeshen says government help will be coming for food banks, which could include financial compensation to help them buy the supplies they need.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2020

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary.

The Canadian Press

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