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Canada: Some Foods Cost A Little Less Last Month…

Amid constantly increasing overall food price inflation and record food bank demand, a few foods were a little less expensive in August. But the big picture still makes an ominous background for the latest round of talks with grocers…

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A little good news

The following foods were down slightly in price in Canada last month:

  • Pasta Products
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Fruit Juices
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Ice Cream and related products
  • Processed Meat
  • Pork
  • Eggs

Most of those declined in retail price by less than 1 percent. Notable among the others were Pasta (-1.9 percent), Fruit Juices (-3.0 percent), Oranges (-3.9 percent), Lettuce (-3.2 percent), Ice Cream (-2.5 percent), and Pork (-6.0 percent).

Still mainly bad news

The Statistics Canada Consumer Price Tracker shows that our food prices rose 6.8 percent on average, overall, from August 2022 to August 2023. But the 2-year increase (from August 2021 to last month) was a thumping 17.3 percent.

Food banks crushed

At the same time, food bank demand has rocketed. The Toronto Food Bank reports, this week, that demand from the hungry has increased more than 50 percent over the past year. The operation’s costs are up 12 percent year over year. And donations continue down significantly.

“Toronto’s food insecurity crisis continues with no signs of slowing down,” said Toronto Food Bank spokesperson Talia Bronstein. “No one should have to rely on charity for food, yet here we are, with 12,500 new individuals walking through the doors of Toronto food banks for the first time every single month.”

The University of BC reports that demand from students at its campus food bank has soared 500 percent year over year. They just don’t have enough money for food after paying for tuition.

About time the government stepped in

I think most of those affected by continuing high food prices would agree it’s time for governments to step in and fix the food price crisis. Nobody else is going to do it.

After repeated calls to Ottawa to testify to federal government commissions on food prices, the big-5 supermarkets have done nothing to reduce prices. Yet they continue to report record profits. The latest meeting with top federal cabinet officials extracted only a feeble promise to ‘work with the government to reduce food prices’. Though the supermarket CEOs who testified last week did agree to ‘support government’ in whatever moves it might make to resolve the crisis. We’ll see.

My take

As I said in Sunday Musings this past weekend, the good will assertions of the grocers mean nothing: “Just like the Prime Minister saying that ‘food prices are top of mind’ as Parliament returns from its summer break. They’re simply position statements – at best, wishful thinking – on the part of their declarers. And not a single hint that any action will be taken as a result.”

I’m curious to see how far the food price crisis goes before politicians realize that the issue is literally a matter of life and death for millions of voters…

~ Maggie J.