A recent survey by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research showed Alberta and Saskatchewan have felt the effects of the increased price of food and inflation more than anywhere else in the country.
With Canadians trying to stretch a dollar and reduce spending on food, survey research manager Jessica McCutcheon says she was surprised at the amount of people who are struggling, and how they’re coping.
“We saw people skipping meals, we saw people eating less healthy because it’s cheaper, stealing food out of necessity because people can’t afford to pay these prices,” McCutcheon told CTV News.
In Saskatoon, the services of the local food bank have been used by over 20,000 people a month. Numbers that are concerning to executive director Laurie O’Connor.
“We’ve noticed a steady incline of people using our services since January,” said O’Connor. “Back to concerning levels — more than 20,000 people a month.”
While the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre exists to serve clients in times of need, O’Connor says the pressure has been growing for quite some time now.
“We’re noticing more people needing to use our services,” she said. “Then of course everyone’s budget is being impacted, so we have been seeing fewer donations of food through the door, and our purchasing power has significantly decreased because the food is so expensive.”
The staff and volunteers have been trying to prepare since the beginning of the pandemic, but the uncertainty of the next few months is adding to the pressure.
“Things were so uncertain, we were making sure that we had reserves and we had some stores of food and those kinds of things, but it’s really unknown to us what the next five to six months is going to look like,” she said.
O’Connor says she can’t figure out why the prairie provinces are being hit harder than Ontario, BC, or Quebec, but she thinks the social assistance network is under stress.
“We need to consider that the social safety net across the country and in this province is crumbling. How can we strengthen that to make sure nobody’s falling through the cracks?” said O’Connor, who added that Saskatchewan has been dealing with the same child poverty rate for her entire career.
“Here in this province, it’s one in four kids who are living in poverty. That’s the same stat since I started here 15 years ago,” she said. “We just can’t see mto move the needle on that, and it’s frustrating for community organizations like ours. We need to do a better job.”
While feeling the effects of inflation, O’Connor says she’s encouraged by this time of year when families consider their neighbours and are more motivated to give.