Rising food and fuel prices are about to put more pressure on the Surrey Food Bank and its clients.
Last week, at a quarterly meeting of Food Banks BC’s elected board of directors in Victoria, officials were notified of an imminent increase by five per cent in the cost of basic commodities.
Affected will be staples such as rice, wheat, sugar and cooking oil.
“For most people in reasonable jobs, they will figure things out,” explains Surrey Food Bank executive director Marilyn Herrmann. “But those near deficit – what are they going to give up if they’re already on the edge or not meeting their basic requirements? What more can they cut back on?”
Food cost increases began last year due to factors such as failed crops cross the world, a sluggish global economy and crude oil prices above US$100 per barrel.
Food prices have already risen 2.1 per cent in the 12 months up to January 2011, according to Statistics Canada’s latest Consumer Price Index.
Consumers paid four per cent more for meat and 10.7 per cent more for sugar and confectionery during the same period.
According to StatsCan, prices for food purchased from restaurants also increased 2.7 per cent.
Combined costs of the new five-per-cent increases are estimated to rise around $340 per person per year.
Herrmann expects that the $23 the Surrey Food Bank pays now for a 40-lb. bag of rice will rise to $24.15 in the coming weeks. The food bank buys about $1,000 worth of rice every six to eight weeks as supplies are low.
Higher costs of wheat products could also force grocery stores to sell day-old bread rather than to make donations to food banks.
Herrmann says that as the food bank’s purchasing power is being reduced, fuel prices, now at record levels, make it more expensive to run the food bank’s one-tonne and five-tonne trucks, which are used to collect donations and make other deliveries.
She believes that food bank clients and those who could become clients will be hit the worst in the near future.
“We expect without a doubt that more people are going to need us.”