Food Inflation in Canada; food bank’s efforts to help people in need

By Desirée Zagbai

Going to the grocery store used to be serene, but it is now a place of anxiety.
Food prices are increasing at a rapid rate. A report by Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 shows that food prices will increase by 2.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent. The average family of four is expected to spend $16,297.20 on food in 2024, an increase of up to $701.79 from last year.
These statistics worry Montrealers, and some people have no choice but to cut their daily food consumption.
In these troubling times, food banks in Canada are putting in a lot of effort to help people in need, despite the high demand that keeps growing. Sharon Nelson, Vice President of the Jamaica Association of Montreal’s Food Bank, is not planning on restricting the number of people she wants to help.
JAM’s Food Bank has been operating for over 20 years, and they get donations from community organizations as well as businesses. They work daily to monitor their products so that they can help as many individuals as possible. The main challenge they have is to make sure that they have enough food for the people that come in every week, and purchasing staple foods such as flour, vegetables, potatoes, and rice has to be done occasionally.
“You know, we’re going from a food bank a couple of years ago that was serving maybe 20 families on a weekly basis to almost four times that,” Nelson said.
The demographic that JAM is helping is wide. Muslims, Jews, people from southeast Asia, Africa, Québec, Brazil, and more are attending this food bank due to all the help they are able to receive. Since the number of people who need help keeps increasing, they have created a donation box on their website.
“You know, you don’t have a choice to say I’m hungry, but I’ll take a break right now. You know what I mean. It doesn’t work that way, especially when there are families and young children involved,” Nelson said.
A major element that JAM has applied to give good service is a list of items that people can choose from, and it is based on sustainability. This allows people to eat what they can and not be exposed to any allergies or keep items on the shelf, which would end up going to waste.
In addition to helping citizens get the food they need, JAM is also helping students from different universities, such as McGill and Concordia University, colleges, language schools, and technical schools.
Nelson explained how immigrants and refugees who arrive in Montreal find out about this food bank, and a large portion of them are Ukrainian war refugees who have just crossed borders.
According to researchers from Canada’s Food Price Report, the recent statement is more positive than the reports from previous years. The past increases have been higher, such as the five to seven per cent increase in 2023. People should soon be able to see a difference in food prices, and the researchers expect the prices to be more stable.
The future for JAM is promising in terms of the activities and programs they have. There are employment opportunities for people who may be retired and for students who are seeking a part-time job. This organization is doing work beyond helping people get the food they need; they are also helping single Black women who may have children; they are giving household items, cooking products such as pots and pans, and even clothing for women, men, children, and anyone else who needs it.
“The ability to help a lot more people and a lot more people should recognize the impacts that we’re having in our community, not only for the Black community but for Montreal’s wider and entire community,” Nelson said.
All of the services they can provide require the assistance of businesses such as Stokes. They donated over 606 boxes of dishes to JAM, and this allowed them to give food to immigrants who come to Montreal with nothing. All the associates of JAM are immigrants as well as first-generation Canadians. Nelson expressed how JAM was built by men and women who came from different places, looking for better opportunities, and that it is their responsibility to help those who are in positions that they used to be in. They will continue to grow and create a brighter future for everyone who needs help.
“Not only the food bank, but the organization, is pretty bright because the altruism that exists within our organization is great and we believe in people. We appreciate people, we love people, and we want to see them in a better place, and if we can be a part of that, we’re so happy to do that,” Nelson said.