'The hurt in their eyes': Overwhelmed Vancouver charity forced to turn food-seekers away

The demand for food banks has grown during the pandemic and with rising costs across the board, the need for food security continues to grow. But now, charities can no longer keep up. Paul Johnson tells us why.

An East Vancouver charity is no longer accepting new families into its food hamper program, citing increasing costs due to inflation and a surge in demand during the pandemic.

In the past year, the CityReach Care Society went from serving 100 families a week to 1,000 a week, according to assistant executive director Cheryl McManus. She said the non-profit reached its breaking point in the last six months, as costs on the grocery store shelves began to soar.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking when people phone or email or come by in person … desperate for some place that can help them provide for their family and we have to turn them away,” she told Global News.

“You can see the hurt in their eyes. No parent wants to be in a place where they’re lacking the resources to provide for their own children.”

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Most Canadians are cutting back their food spending as inflation soars: poll

CityReach Care Society supports thousands of families in Greater Vancouver. In 2021, McManus said it served up one million meals and rescued some $3 million worth of food.

It’s now in the position where it needs both a generous increase in donations and a generous increase in volunteers, said McManus.

“We’re not able to keep up with as many hands it takes to make these thousand hampers a week,” she explained. “We’re looking for support in those two areas to keep our program running, otherwise we face shutting down completely.”

In March, a poll by Leger found more than 80 per cent of Canadians thought inflation was having a serious impact on their households, and the financial squeeze would worsen as rates continue to rise.

Four-fifths of the 1,515 respondents reported having started or begun planning to buy cheaper items at the grocery store to save on bills and cut back on how much they throw out to stretch every dollar. About three quarters also told Leger they planned to cut spending on household items and eat from local restaurants less frequently.

“We’ve seen as house prices have crept up to these record levels, especially here in British Columbia, it has stretched people to the limit in terms of affordability,” said Leger vice-president Steve Mossop.

“The inflation numbers really hit the public agenda really around the November time period, and it went from zero to the top of agenda … four months ago, it was still the effects of the pandemic.”

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How to save at the grocery store amid rising food prices

According to Canada’s Food Price Report for 2022, food prices are expected to increase between five and seven per cent in 2022. The costs of dairy products and restaurant bills will see the greatest cost increase — between six and eight per cent.

That could translate into nearly $1,000 extra dollars on the grocery bill for a Canadian family of four. British Columbia, whose food prices were forecast to decrease in 2021, is now listed among the provinces where food prices will go up at a “higher than average” rate.

— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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