Even though talk of rising food prices has been filling the air waves lately, most of us don’t need a news story to remind us of the ever increasing hit to our wallets each time we go to the grocery store. Most analysts blame the increase on the dropping loonie, becoming even more evident this winter in the produce aisles as almost all of the products come from out of the country.
According to an annual report by the Food Institute at the University of Guelph, fruits and veggies jumped in price between 9.1 and 10.1 per cent last year.
A trip down a Castlegar produce aisle this week found head lettuce at $3.49, bell peppers $4.99 lb., cauliflower $4.99 a head, broccoli crowns $3.99 lb., asparagus $8.99 lb., celery $3.99 lb. carrots $5.99 for 5 lb., tomatoes $3.99, 10 lb. of russet potatoes $5.99, apples $1.99 lb. and grapes $4.99 lb.
As with any cost increases, the rising food prices impact families and people with lower or fixed incomes the most. Community Harvest Food Bank president Deb McIntosh has noticed not just an increase in the needs of clients, but a decrease in the quality of food donations to the food bank. The increased food costs can also trickle down forcing clients to make a choice between buying food and paying bills. “Every increase, whether it is one percent or 13 percent, has a direct impact on our clients,” said McIntosh. The food bank recently had to make a decision to stop buying hamburger for the hampers they give out, replacing it with eggs.
The response of Castlegar residents to the rising costs varies. Some small households with higher incomes report not making changes to their spending habits at all, while others with small incomes and larger families have made varying choices in order to cope. Buying less fresh foods, and more canned and frozen foods is a choice for some. Being more careful in their selections, looking at the sale flyers and waiting to buy items until they are on sale is working for others.
The good news is that produce prices are expected to come down some what once winter is over and the growing season moves north.