Canada’s Food Price Report is forecasting a 2.5 to 4.5 per cent increase in the cost of food in 2024 which will make life even tougher on low-income Red Deerians.
Last year, the report predicted an overall price increase of five to seven per cent in 2023, and the current rate for food price increases is 5.9 per cent, according to the latest available Consumer Price Index.
Lori Jack, with Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance, said some say the anticipated increase isn’t significant, but for those who are already struggling, it’s not good news.
She said in Red Deer, there are a lot of people who barely make enough money to pay their bills. The number one occupation in the city is retail sales and service jobs with lower wages and part-time hours so they are often juggling two or three jobs.
“That’s a lot of people in Red Deer. Any increase is impactful to them to feed their family and meet their expenses in any given month,” Jack said.
She said food inflation hit a high of 11 per cent in 2022, but those earning minimum wage or somewhat higher, did not see an 11 per cent wage increase.
Everyone needs a nutritious diet, whether people earn a lot of money or are scraping by, and that costs a certain amount of money. Cutting back on dietary requirements because of food costs compromises overall health and impacts the ability to perform well at work or school, Jack added.
According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2024, it is anticipated that a family of four will spend an estimated $16,297.20 on food, which is an increase of $701.79 compared to 2023.
Prices for all food categories could rise by as much as 4.5 per cent in 2024, with the most significant increases of five to seven per cent for bakery items, meat, and vegetables.
The report said Canadians are facing additional pressures including higher costs for rent and utilities, rising personal debt, and are actually spending less on food despite inflation.
“Food retail sales data indicates a decline from a monthly spend of $261.24 per capita in August 2022 to a monthly spend of $252.89 per capita in August 2023, indicating that Canadians are reducing their expenditures on groceries, either by reducing the quantity or quality of food they are buying or by substituting less expensive alternatives,” the report said.
Mitch Thomson, executive director of the Red Deer Food Bank, said it’s alarming that people are having to cut back on food.
“People are making tough choices. We see that here all the time,” said Thomson who spoke to a client on Tuesday who searches for older products sold at reduced prices at the grocery store to feed her family.
He said costs are driving up the number of people visiting the agency’s pantry to supplement their diet in addition to a food hamper.
In recent weeks the food bank has been reaching out to the community to help fill its shelves with food for the coming year.
Thomson said there will also be more fundraising efforts next year and the food bank will focus on growing more fresh produce. Food bank supplies are being stretched as far as possible and without enough food, the coming year will be really dire for clients.
“It’s been nerve-wracking to think that we could see a greater number of people next year. But we recognize that as likely a reality.”