20,000 Londoners are unable to afford food, a measure of hardship that the London Food Bank is calling a “record area” as the charity opens its pantries to more people and families than at any time in its 36-year history.
The rise in food insecurity is not due to the economy being turned upside down as thousands of people lost their jobs in the days of strict pandemic lockdowns – but to inflation hitting the cost of everything including shelter, fuel and food new heights this summer.
“We’re probably spending 15 to 20 percent more,” shopper Bob Johnson told CBC News Thursday in the parking lot of a grocery store in the Commissioners and Wellington Road neighborhood.
“It depends on the product but it’s just crazy, like bread, milk and so on – I think you pay 15 to 20 per cent more and when it comes to things like meat? Forget it.”
More people than ever are dependent on the London Food Bank
In June, Canada’s consumer price index, one of the most commonly used measures of inflation, rose eight percent – the biggest rise in the cost of living in Canada since 1983, according to Statistics Canada, and the main reason the London Food Bank reported a record-breaking summer in terms of demand.
“We’re up to over 20,000 people that we try to help every month,” said Glen Pearson, one of the co-directors of the London Food Bank.
“This is record territory. We’ve never been close to it in our entire 36-year history.”
Pearson said while the food bank is helping 10,000 people directly through its pantry on Leathorne Street, it’s also helping another 10,000 people by serving the city’s frontline charities, all of which are also feeling the pinch of inflation.
We believe people will have more trouble donating and we certainly understand that,– Glen Pearson, Co-Director of the London Food Bank
The situation presents a double-edged sword for the London Food Bank as it faces an extraordinary surge in demand combined with a potential drop in the amount of donations that ordinary families are willing to give.
“It’s really hard for people with the cost of groceries. So we think people will have more trouble donating and we certainly understand that.”
“On the other hand, we’ve never had as much pressure as we have now,” he said. “So we just have to plan and move forward as best we can.”
A London Food Bank volunteer loads a trolley full of baskets for families in need. The charity has had a record-breaking summer in terms of demand, and with inflation squeezing family budgets across the city, donations are likely to suffer, too. (Colin Butler/CBC News)
Pearson said part of that is trust in a community that has never failed to help its neighbors in times of need.
“I’m not despairing, we’ve been through difficult times before, we’ve just never been through such difficult times,” he said.
The same trend was mirrored by other charities in London
The same trend is reflected in all of the city’s charities, which are struggling with their loss of purchasing power.
Kathy Taylor, a former nurse and one of six volunteers who runs the non-profit gift shop on the campus of London Health Sciences Center University Hospital, ran across the city on Thursday trying to find pop at a decent price.
“I went to three different places just to try to save money for the gift shop. We try to keep our prices low because we offer a service.”
Taylor said the price of pop has increased by at least 50 percent. She used to pay about five dollars for an 18-pack and now has to pay almost eight. She said the difference is eating away at the store’s profits.
“Because of inflation, we’re not making the profits we used to make,” she said. “We donate all the profits we make to important research at the hospital.”