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Food Inflation Eased A Little In September. But…

As we’ve heard in general terms, overall Canadian food price inflation slowed in September. But not really a lot. Food prices still have a long way to fall before they reach what consumers consider ‘normal’ levels. Meanwhile, food bank demand is still increasing…

UK high food prices - © 2023 mashed.comMore and more Canadians are suffering food quality and
quantity crises as prices continue to rise…

I didn’t really want to do another story on food price inflation so soon after yesterday’s post on Canadian Industry Minister Champagne’s frustration with the supermarket giants. But my in-box this morning featured the latest food price inflation statistics from Stats Canada. And I just had to relay both the good news and the bad news.

Prices down a bit overall…

The official figures show Canadian food prices were down last month. But increases – and a few decreases – were distributed over a wide range, depending on the products you look at.

The Consumer Price Index – Canada’s official measure of inflation – showed food prices were down just a scooch in September, compared to August. The decrease was just over 1 percent, from 6.9 to 5.8. That’s taken as significant by the Lords of Statistics in Ottawa. But it meant very little to consumers, who are still struggling as never before to put decent food on their tables.

Across the economy, inflation eased a sliver, to 3.8 percent from 4.0 in August.

Jules Boudreau, Senior Economist at Mackenzie Investments, told CTVNews.ca in an interview Tuesday: “We should expect inflation to trend around three per cent over the next few months, not the four per cent trend suggested by August’s [figures].”

Year-over-year prices tell the tale

Fresh veggies were up just 1.9 percent in September over August. Still an increase, in spite of the fact that it’s the harvest season. But the real picture emerges when you look at the year-over-year figures. Fresh veggies increased a whopping 18.4 percent from September 2022 to last month.

Edible oils and fats were up just 0.4 percent August to September. But these pantry essentials clocked a troubling 14.8 percent increase year-over-year.

Pasta products – another staple – actually dropped 1.3 percent from August to September. But the overall year-to-year increase was still a troubling 10.8 percent.

And so it goes, all the way down the list to Ham and Bacon, which posted a breathtaking 7.5 percent drop month to month. But still increased 2.2 percent year-over-year.

Situation still dire for many

A survey earlier this month, commissioned for Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab in Halifax, revealed shocking state of economic affairs for a huge number of Canadians:

Almost half – 45.5 percent – of those surveyed are basing food choices on cost, rather than nutritional value.

Half of those asked say they’ve cut back on the amount of meat and other conventional proteins they buy.

About 79 percent say they have significantly reduced their food waste in the past year.

At the same time, 63.3 percent say compromising on nutrition will negatively affect their long-term health.

“Canadians are actually concerned about their own health due to higher food prices over the long term. That’s three out of five Canadians, which is a lot,” Lab Director Sylvain Charlebois told CTV.

Food banks on verge of failing

That may sound a little alarmist, but the figures don’t lie. Toronto’s huge Daily Bread food bank says visits by hungry city dwellers are up 51 percent over the same time last year. And the organization is trying to raise (C)$3.8 million, plus tens of thousands of food donations by the end of this month.

“Toronto’s food insecurity crisis continues with no signs of slowing down,” Daily Bread rep Talia Bronstein told CBC. “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.”

A Montreal food bank reports that, for the first time in its 37-year history, it has had to turn away folks seeking emergency food. “We are in a crisis situation,” Tasha Lackman, Executive Director of the Depot Community Food Centre in Notre Dame de Grace, told Global News. “The numbers keep going up. We’re having to tell people that we can’t help them and that’s not the situation that we want to be in.”

In the midst of plenty – or so it would seem at first glance – the Central Okanagan Food Bank in Kelowna, BC, is serving record numbers of visitors. “We’ve seen a 32 percent increase in need from last year. And as a result, our food reserves are dwindling at an alarming rate,” RayAnn Gruza, the food bank’s Communications and Engagement Coordinator told the Kelowna Capital News. “We can use all the help we can get.”

My take

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Government must force the food retailing industry to sacrifice profits in the interests of heading off starvation for tens of thousands of Canadians. The supermarket giants are playing footsie with the government over promised food price reductions. They refuse to disclose plans they SAY they have to curb food price inflation.

Meanwhile, more Canadians than every before, since the end of the Second World War, are relying on food banks or lowering their dietary standards to get any kind of food on the table at all. ‘Lowering their dietary standards’ is just another way of saying, ‘increasing their risk of starvation’.

This is a real and present danger to Canadian society. We’ve seen nothing to compare with the current state of affairs since the Great Depression. Do the supermarket billionaires realize that, if they price food out of reach for the masses, their sales will plummet? What if people start actually starving to death because they can’t afford food, and the food banks and other agencies are unable to help them?

The solution is simple: The 1 percent of Canadians who control the majority of the country’s wealth have to start giving back to the country that made that wealth possible. The current ‘Let them eat cake’ attitude of the supermarket giants ill-becomes them. And they’ll sizzle in the frying pan of history for their cynical, greedy stand.

Isn’t Canada supposed to be here for the benefit of its people? The folks who do the work? Buy the goods? Pay the taxes that are supposed to ensure that their needs as a society are fulfilled?

Excuse me, while I practice my deep-breathing exercises…

~ Maggie J.