According to the latest Canada Food Price Report, Canadian families can expect to pay close to $700 more for groceries next year – the highest annual increase the report has ever predicted.
The biggest increases will be seen in meat and vegetables, which are both expected to increase by 4.5% – 6.5%.
When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, food banks across Toronto saw firsthand how many households were pushed to their financial breaking point. By June, food bank visits in Toronto had increased by 22% compared to the year prior, and by August that number had grown by a staggering 51%.
Food bank clients have a median monthly income of $892, less than half of the official poverty line for Toronto. Close to 35% of food bank clients surveyed during the first wave of COVID-19 reported spending more on groceries because, in order to comply with public health guidelines of limiting trips outside the home, they weren’t able to shop around for the most affordable food options.
Rising grocery costs will put further strain on households already accessing food banks, which may result in increased visits.
The increase in grocery costs may also lead to new clients coming to food banks. The unemployment rate in Ontario remains high at 9.1%, with lower wage earners taking the biggest hit in terms of job losses and reduction in hours. Research demonstrates that when faced with insufficient income, many will sacrifice their food intake to pay for other critical expenses, such as rent and utilities. Without savings available, many low-income households may turn to a food bank or other community food program in the coming months.
Toronto food banks are bracing for the highest number of food bank visits ever recorded this year. It is critical that all levels of government prioritize poverty reduction as part of ongoing pandemic response and recovery.
To read our full recommendations on building a future without poverty beyond COVID-19, please click here.