The average family in Saskatchewan can expect to pay an extra $345 at the grocery store this year, according to an expert in food prices.
Sylvain Charlebois is a professor at the University of Guelph Food Institute. He specializes in food distribution and he joined the CJME Morning News to talk about the impact of the low loonie on food prices.
“All the commodities that we import are highly vulnerable to monetary fluctuations. So like fruits and vegetables, prices are on the rise in that section of the grocery store clearly,” he said. “We are expecting prices to go up anywhere between 2.5 to 4.5 per cent this year.”
He says over all, food inflation is expected to hit four per cent in 2016. Charlebois notes that regular increases in the cost of food are not normally a problem, but the economy is causing more concern right now because salaries are not increasing to reflect the costs.
Charlebois recommends shopping around for bargains and buying frozen fruits and vegetables to cut down on the cost of groceries without sacrificing nutrition over the winter.
“Once we actually get to the spring season, we’re likely going to see produce and food prices stabilize somewhat,” he said.
The other suggestion to offset the cost of high food prices is to be more careful about wasting food. Charlebois says the average family wastes about $1,500 worth of food every single year.
Food bank feeling the pinch
For people who live on a fixed income, the rising cost of fresh vegetables and fruit often means they just can’t afford to buy them.
Steve Compton is the CEO of the Regina Food Bank which serves about 200 families per day. He says people living in poverty or on a fixed income often can’t stretch their grocery budget to buy more nutritious food.
“Eating well just costs more and if you’re on a fixed income, I think it’s doubly problematic,” he said.
He says there have been many increases in the cost of food over the past two years and clients at the food bank often comment on the affordability of eating well.
“With some of the prices that we’ve begun to see now, and some of the prices that we’ll see in the future, it’s going to adversely affect a lot of people that are living in poverty or on any kind of a fixed income – you’re not necessarily going to keep pace with that, so you have to make some choices about what type of food you have,” Compton said.
The food bank itself could also face more challenges to cover the cost of buying fresh food to supplement non-perishable donated items.
“What we try and do as much as possible through the generous donations that we get, is to ensure it’s as healthy an offering as we can possibly offer,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t have a significant impact on that, but it will certainly raise some challenges if the price increase is sustained throughout the year.”
While donations of canned and dry food are always important at the food bank, Compton says cash donations are also very important when it comes to providing fresh food like milk, vegetables, bread and meat.