Inflation affects everyone, and it’s nearly impossible to talk about food without talking about how much more expensive it is these days. According to statistics, the cost of food will increase by between five to seven per cent in 2022, which is the largest increase in history in a single year.
And while the increase is having an impact on everyone, it is, like everything else that has happened over the past few years, having more of an impact on vulnerable populations, especially households that make less than $30,000. This represents 21 per cent of households in Greater Montreal.
“Some community agencies see demand for food assistance grow week after week. The new faces of people asking for help include workers who can’t make ends meet and more and more families,” says the president and executive director of Centraide, Claude Pinard.
“This problem has been exacerbated by rampant inflation over the past six months. When people have to spend over 50 per cent of their net income on housing, they have little left in their budgets to buy essentials like food.”
Youth participating in Boîte à Lunch, an afterschool food literacy program run by The Depot Community Food Centre. The program builds cooking skills, nutrition knowledge and healthy eating habits. Kids learn culturally diverse recipes and make their lunch for the following day. SUPPLIED
At The Depot Community Food Centre, in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, the impact of rising financial hardships due to the increasing cost of food, housing and transportation is being felt in myriad ways, most troubling of which is the number of children and new arrivals to Canada that are experiencing hardship.
According to the executive director of The Depot, which is supported by Centraide, the need has never been greater. The Depot has been around since 1986 and works collaboratively with other community agencies that are part of Centraide’s network to address issues of food insecurity and poverty in N.D.G.
“What’s happened since November, and in the past couple of months, is we have 75 to 100 new people who we haven’t seen before, and who haven’t had to use emergency food before, coming to use our services,” says Tasha Lackman, who stepped into her role at The Depot, which used to be known as the NDG Food Depot, five months ago.
“Whether people are on benefits or working several jobs and still can’t make ends meet, and a lot of new arrivals to Canada, like, a lot. So, we predict that there’s going to continue to be a rise.”
During the pandemic, The Depot had to stop most of their in-person services in favour of a model that led them to deliver an average of 600 food baskets a month to somewhere between 1,200 to 1,500 people.
On March 8, they switched to a grocery-store model that allows people to personally select the food they need, although many of the seniors served by The Depot continue to receive delivery.
Gardeners enjoying the late summer evening at the Cantaloupe Collective Garden near the NDG YMCA, one of 6 gardens run by The Depot Community Food Centre. SUPPLIED
In total, The Depot offers approximately 20 programs related to food and food insecurity, including collective and community gardens, a community grocery store, collective kitchen, food deliveries and snack programs for kids.
“What we’re hearing from the community organizations that we partner with for the snack programs is that the kids are coming to the programs, more than ever, hungry and not able to concentrate or participate in sports,” says Lackman.
“Personally, I’ve been speaking Spanish more than I have in 20 years. A lot of people who are coming into our space have been in Montreal for two or three weeks and are just figuring out the landscape.”
An anti-poverty organization that uses food to bring health, belonging and social justice to low-income communities, The Depot is just one of over 350 community agencies that are part of Centraide’s network, which helps them focus on delivering services rather than on philanthropic efforts.
Like other sectors, the community sector is struggling to attract and retain human resources and is coping with exhausted staff, which makes it even harder for them to respond to needs.
And on top of everything, agencies also have to deal with the significant increases in food and gas prices, and for many, rent increases as well, which, in the context of increased demand, is compromising their very capacity to help people.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Centraide.
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