Alex Binkley on food prices


The Binkley Report

Alex Binkley is a foremost political and economic analyst, whose website is Readers will be aware that his columns in True North Perspective have foreseen political and economic developments in Canada. In this edition ...

A reminder about food prices

High cost of housing and low incomes

are source of leap in use of food banks

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

Image: Cover of Humanity's Saving Grace, a novel by Alex Binkley. Click to purchase at Amazon.caThursday 01 December — The annual report from Food Banks Canada (FBC) makes a key point the agrifood industry should not be shy about repeating.

The high cost of housing and low incomes, not the cost of groceries, are the main reasons that the number of number of people accessing food banks have increased for the third consecutive year. Trips to food banks now are at least 28% higher than before the 2008-2009 recession.

In fact Shawn Peg, Director of Policy and Research at FBC, gives farmers and others in the agrifood supply chain full marks for helping food banks meet the growing demand for food although even more could be done.

FBC’s observation fits with Food Freedom Day that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture celebrates in the first half of February. By then, the average Canadian will earn enough to buy groceries for the year.

Foodbanks see the people who lack the income to cover housing and food. “We’re suffering from a loss of well-paying jobs; one in six working Canadians relies on a food bank. People shouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent and feeding the kids.”

Peg says federal improvements to both child benefits and pensions in recent months should reduce the dependence on food banks. But the real solution lies in a basic income for Canadians. FBC also wants a national poverty reduction strategy in place by Oct. 1 next year.

Peg wants Ottawa to get on with the strategy and “avoid the consultation trap. Too many Canadians are too close to being unable to pay the bills.

“No one should need to access a food bank in a country as prosperous as Canada. The fact that more than 860,000 access a food bank each month shows that we need to break from the past in our approach to hunger and poverty.”

Peg points out that more than one third of the people helped by food banks are children. There are also a high number of seniors on limited incomes that depend on food banks.

While the number of Ontario residents using food banks dropped by 6.4% in the last year, there still are nearly 336,000 people depending on them. Manitoba was the only other provinces to see a fall in demand.  The greatest increases were in Nova Scotia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The next time you hear people grousing about food price increases, remind them of Food Bank Canada’s message.

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