Inflation driving up demand at meals distribution centres in Regina, Saskatoon

Times are tough with the rising cost of goods and services, and food donation centres in Regina and Saskatoon have noticed a growing number of people in need of help.

“We’re seeing an overall increase in requests for services across the board,” said John Bailey, CEO of the Regina Food Bank.

“That’s been a trend that’s been consistent throughout the history of the organization, but that’s been really stark in the past sort of two or three years, as we’ve sort of jumped quite considerably every year.”

Bailey said the food bank’s demand always increases during the holiday season during its Dilawri Holiday Hampers of Hope Program, which is designed to provide additional holiday meals to people in Regina.

“Since the start of the pandemic, and then with the increase in inflationary costs on food, we’ve seen definitely an increase on those seeking our assistance,” said Derek Kerr, executive director with the Salvation Army in Saskatoon.

“We have approximately 6,000 families that have registered for support this year.”

Much like the Regina Food Bank, Kerr said the Salvation Army usually sees a spike in demand around Christmas.

“There’s some (people) that we only see at Christmas,” he said, “those that are possibly the working poor, or those that experienced other incidents in their life that (is) causing them to seek assistance from us.”

Al Hoeft, executive director of the Salvation Army in Regina, said not only are there more people needing help this year due to high inflation, but some of their donors are struggling as well.

“As we look to grocery cost increase as we’ve seen, it’s now winter and we’re starting to see the pinch on utilities,” Hoeft said, further noting the Regina branch is a bit low on volunteers at the moment.

The Saskatoon non-profit CHEP Good Food has also seen a lot more activity recently. CHEP provides meals to schools that don’t have kitchen programs.

“We’re making about 4,000 of those lunches a month,” said CEO Gord Androsoff. “Historically, it was around 2,500 to 3,000, so it’s jumped up quite a lot as well.”

Androsoff said he’d like to see more done on a policy level to help address the needs in the community.

“It’s a poverty issue,” Androsoff said. “Whether it’s housing or food insecurity or people dealing with other issues, it’s really a lack of money in their hands.”

Androsoff said municipalities can only do so much, but the provincial government can play a pivotal role.

“There’s a growing number of people in this city and this province that are in dire circumstances, and it seems like a lot of them are falling between the cracks,” he said.

Roughly 20,000 people each month rely on the services of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, according to Deborah Hamp, the food bank’s director of operations. She said the centre’s emergency baskets are in high demand right now.

“People are having to make some tough choices,” Hamp said. “(They’re) having to choose between paying their rent and being able to buy nutritious food, so it’s really been a struggle.”

Hamp said she also believes that more can be done to address the issue on a policy level.

“We believe that there are sweeping changes needed to a variety of systems, both at the local, provincial and federal level, that will really help lift people out of poverty,” she said.

“We’re seeing a lot of people that just really need a little bit of extra help to get where they’re going on their journey.”

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