May 25th, 2024

Food bank usage expected to ‘skyrocket’ as income supports set to end

By Lethbridge Herald on November 4, 2021.

Volunteer Zerlina Omeasoo portions out potatoes from a bulk bag while working this week at the Interfaith Food Bank. Herald photo by Ian Martens

Dale Woodard – Lethbridge Herald

Food bank use continues to rise for Lethbridge food banks.

That trend also points to a rocky time as the calendar gets ready to turn to 2022.

According to Food Banks Canada’s annual HungerCount report, released Thursday, more than 116,300 Albertans visited a food bank in March 2021.

That reflects a 30 per cent increase from previous years, a trend that illustrates the rising economic and social pressures across the country.

Food Banks Canada released the first HungerCount report since 2019, which offers a collection of data from food banks across the country that reflects the challenges, resilience and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Across the province things have been drastically changing over the last year,” said Danielle McIntyre, executive director for the Interfaith Food Bank. “The numbers have continued to climb since that point (March). We are bracing. We haven’t quite hit our pre-pandemic numbers yet, but I would expect by Christmas we will and come the New Year when all of these temporary supports are gone we’re expecting our numbers to skyrocket.”

HungerCount 2021 findings noted food bank visits topped 1.3 million in March 2021, the largest increase since the 2008 recession.

It also showed senior incomes and disability benefits have not kept up with inflation and seniors and people with disabilities are disproportionately represented in food banks across Alberta.

In a press release, the Interfaith Food Bank and the Lethbridge Food Bank Society said the trends have been noticed locally, with both major local food banks supporting more than 3,000 people monthly.

“Every year when we get into the colder months our numbers go up anyway,” said McIntyre. “But with recent announcements of the income support ending, we know there were a lot of people who qualified for CERB that maybe weren’t making that much money beforehand. Everybody has been kind of living in a bit of an imaginary state, having more money than they normally would have access to and with that being gone and taxable, 2022 is going to be one of those years where I think we are going to really rely on community support to ensure we’re able to support everybody who needs us.”

McIntyre said a five per cent increase in food costs is expected in addition to housing and fuel.

“Housing and fuel are something we haven’t managed to catch up with and we’re seeing a lot of our clients are using the money they have available for housing and fuel and the food budget is the only one that has some flux in it. Unfortunately, people won’t be eating as well as they don’t have other access.”

To tackle these issues, Food Banks Canada HungerCount is pushing recommendations to address the root causes of poverty and food security across five key areas.

“We don’t want to go back to normal. We want to go to a better system than we’ve had because the prior social safety net system was broken,” said McIntyre. “So we’re looking for new supports for people who are living in rental housing, especially for low income renters.”

Modernized and expanded supports for low wage and unemployed workers and progress toward a minimum income floor are also key points.

“If we have these social programs that say they’re supposed to provide for basic needs then they should be enough to provide for basic needs,” said McIntyre. “So having a minimum income floor that is realistic is something that’s very important.”

McIntyre said they’ve seen some progress with families with children, but it’s the demographic of single adults, adults who live alone, seniors and working individuals or people with disabilities that seem to get left behind.

“So there needs to be more support for low income single adults,” she said. “The other is always enhancing or improving access to affordable, good quality food in our northern and rural communities.”

McIntyre noted Thanksgiving to Christmas is when the majority of people think about the food bank but perhaps forget about it the rest of the year.

“I think as the weather is colder it’s just important that people think of one another and that while our struggle is still quite heavy, right now the average Joe is having a hard time,” he said. “If we can reflect on the fact there is always somebody in a worse circumstance and that it actually makes you feel good to help other people, reach out. If you see a neighbour in need, help them out or give to a charity or support program locally so you can have the most impact.”

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Les Elford

It is with the deepest most profound respect I send this to the Indigenous leaders within our region. Perhaps I don’t have the right to offer my two cents. However; my heart breaks for the living conditions for the Indigenous and Non Indigenous homeless population within the City of Lethbridge. No one deserves to live like this or be treated like they are. Three thousand people or more relying on the food banks in this city is too many. My wish /hope is for some permanent improvement in living conditions for those who need it most and desire it.

 We have a new City of Lethbridge council. Congratulations to all elected and kudos to those who were not for having the courage and conviction to speak out and share their ideas for improvement. Council may be unable to fix all the woes in this upside down world, but I hope the new council will have the strength and courage to be critical, creative and innovative thinkers. Unafraid to think outside the box to improve circumstances for the citizens of Lethbridge.

Lethbridge shares common issues with many cities throughout the world in these challenging and unprecedented times. The news of late has been full of troubling stories of rising inflation. In Canada, inflation is now at 4.4 % the highest since 2003; an 18 year high.

 “Inflation not only reduces everyone’s purchasing power, but perversely it does so while making people feel like they have more money.

“People wonder why their money isn’t going as far as it once did. People are confused as to why they feel poorer and poorer.”

“None of it can be directly traced back to government, so people often get angry at their employers and at the stores they shop at, wondering why the ‘selfish’ business owners keep raising prices.”

“Ironically, since inflation leads people to falsely direct blame at the private sector, we often see more demands for government intervention and government action, despite government being the culprit”.

 “In the same vein, the head of the Bank of Canada is still claiming higher inflation will be ‘transitory,’ and officials are either trying to downplay it, or claim it’s a good thing.”

“Tiff Macklem, the head of the BOC, is even saying that inflation isn’t ‘broad based,’ and thus isn’t a big cause for concern.” (Spencer Fernando, National Citizens Coalition)

I am not going to pretend to be an expert on economics or inflation. I tend to side with Mr. Fernando. I recognize central bankers are some of; if not the most powerful people in the world. When they speak and take action; everyone is impacted.  I am old enough to remember the devastating impact 13- 18 % mortgage and interest rates had on Albertan’s lives in the ‘80s. Many simply; lost their homes or had home wrecking parties before putting their keys in the mail box for banks to pick up.

 Most government officials usually get it wrong; (2007 – 2008 financial crisis, COVID response federal/provincially).

I simply ask; what makes central bankers or politicians think; this current inflation is transitory? And how do they know prices will fall and return to normal when it is over? 

 According to The Motley Fool;  What Does Transitory Inflation Mean?

 According to Robin Hood Founder; Paul Tudor Jones-Inflation-Is-The-Number-One-Issue-Facing-Investors;

 A simple way to calculate how inflation will impact your own financial circumstances, wages etc. (Rule of 72),or%20inflation%3B%20it%20can%20also%20indicate…%20More%20

The following links may provide some food for thought and/or and impetus for actual additional food production for the benefit of all.
 I have repetitively suggested the need for the recycling/retrofitting of the numerous empty and abandoned warehouses within Lethbridge (Sears, Save on Foods, Safeway) and giving these buildings a new useful life, a new purpose by; retrofitting them into homes /rehabilitation centres for senior citizens and /or the homeless population. The corporations which own these buildings could possibly write them off through tax deductions, or charitable donations if they haven’t already done so. Ideally; the Sears space would /could be a pretty good setting for tiny homes including a real community environment for seniors allowing life with dignity. Call me an idealist/dreamer but there could be electric wheelchairs, scooters or electric golf carts for transportation and tiny coffee shops /bistros tiny pharmacies, visiting doctors etc. Other cities have successfully done this in the USA and in Calgary; retrofitting empty mall and office towers.
Recently; I thought of another use for these buildings which may have a beneficial impact for all citizens of Lethbridge. Especially with rising inflation; particularly rising food costs. Please consider the article below:

According to an article BY RICK LEBLANC Updated on December 16, 2020 (SUSTAINABLE BUSINESSES ORGANIC FARMING What You Should Know About Vertical Farming Is It the Future of Agriculture?
“By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion people, and feeding it will be a huge challenge.1 Due to industrial development and urbanization, we are losing arable lands every day. In 2015, scientists reported that the Earth had lost a third of its arable lands over the previous 40 years.”

 “Vertical farming is the practice of producing food on vertically inclined surfaces. Instead of farming vegetables and other foods on a single level, such as in a field or a greenhouse, this method produces foods in vertically stacked layers commonly integrated into other structures like a skyscraper, shipping container or repurposed warehouse”.

 There are pros and cons to vertical farming too numerous to mention in this article I would encourage people to do their own investigation if more information is desired. Please understand I am not advocating these buildings somehow be turned into vertical farms. Vertical farms are very expensive to operate, and the produce grown is limited and expensive to purchase. Vertical Farms may not be practical in Southern Alberta. But they may be helpful in reducing the 35% vacancy rate for office space in Calgary.

What may be more practical, is if empty warehouses all over the Province of Alberta can be turned into marijuana grow operations; Why can’t these buildings be turned into indoor gardens producing various produce year round inside with roof top gardening allowing for summer products to be grown? The Save on Foods building may be a great location. Perhaps they could use a portion of the building to supply their own new store next door and a portion for the community needs. The same possibly could be done with the empty Safeway. Could be a win/win.

Perhaps federal grants/ rebates could be applied for solar power and energy efficiency. Lastly the Lethbridge College has researched and experimented with hydroponic agriculture for years and could possibly provide a  wealth of resources and expertise.

I would hate to see them corporate owned or operated simply for profit, but perhaps some type of co-op or charitable foundation could be established and the products utilized for those in most need (soup kitchens, homeless shelter, regular people, unable to keep up with the rising costs of groceries.)

Perhaps the City of Lethbridge could offer some type of tax incentive. 

 Alternatively perhaps community or individual plots could be established and leased or rented out (indoor community gardens) at a reasonable price.

 I hope someone may take this idea and run with it and establish something good for all of Lethbridge. I am just one person who does not have the resources or the contacts to make this work. I have sent this letter to all of our elected Federal and Provincial representatives and to all of the incumbent City representatives who were reelected with little to no response. I recognize elected officials are not real estate agents, they are however ambassadors for the betterment of the City and its citizens.

 If nothing else; I hope the new City Council would consider zoning /developing more community garden space or mandating roof top garden on new buildings. 

 I recognize this is “out of the box” thinking.  We can’t be scared of this thinking or put off by Nay- Sayers, thinking it can’t be done. Without risk takers or visionaries we wouldn’t have electricity, automobiles, the space station, the internet etc.

 With a little bit of; time, effort, oxygen, energy, innovative critical thought and initiative and solution finding/problem solving rather than problem finding; Lethbridge and community could take what many perceive as a negative circumstance and potentially turn it into a positive one.
 Just; Food for thought ………. Or ideally for many.
Les Elford



thank you for a thoughtful entry that comes from the heart.
the single most constant driver of inflation is loan interest. parasites somehow get to lend money, up to 90% of what they do not actually have on hand (in other words, it does not yet exist), and they get to lend the creation at compounded interest…what kind of a sick, petty, ruthless mind could up with the idea of interest compounded upon interest; the exact same to be said of govt officials that have okayed this approach to greed and self service.
the next spike to inflation is that of energy charges, particularly gasoline prices. they spike the cost of virtually everything: not just our wants, but our basic needs. when it comes to energy, there is nowhere to shop one against the other. the system is cooked, as gasoline and energy companies amount to an oligarchy of price fixing…may as well be a monopoly, but, hey, lol, that would be less legal.

Les Elford

Thank you for your kind words of support and knowledge. I agree with your comments. We allow for very little competition, and therefore are stuck with these massive companies that can charge whatever they want. Along that line; I would suggest the invention of the Corporation as the most vile, illegal creation on earth.
The attribute of personhood to the corporation; as a result, corporations enjoy the same rights as ordinary people. Yet corporations do not behave as persons, and lack many defining characteristics of biological persons.
A corporation isn’t a person. It’s a business, a pool of investors’ money used to conduct transactions and hopefully make a profit. Ideally there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. Everyone wants to try to get ahead, to better themselves right? But in order to determine the legality of business proceedings, the legal fiction of treating a corporation as an artificial person was created. 
By law; Corporations Are People, And They Have More Rights Than You.
Unfortunately Corporate leadership has gotten out of control; CEO’s are paid exorbitant salaries and nothing, not even human life and or dignity is more important to a large Corporation than profit.
They gladly will take every government handout they can, but seldom use it for the benefit of employees. Think of the factory workers in impoverished countries working for pennies a day for large Corporations.
Secondly; I would guess our financial institutions, insurance agencies, telecommunication companies, utility companies, legal system, governments and accounting practices, all engage in illegal and or unscrupulous unethical behavior because they can. What happened with Trudeau’s promise to lower telecommunication costs? They remain the highest in the world. Has Management Expense Ratio’s on bank investment products decreased?
Canada is a leader in white collar crime activity because of lax laws. (Vancouver Casino /Real Estate Scandal, Panama Papers etc)
Regulatory agencies (SEC in the USA, Alberta Securities regulator, our Environmental regulator all engage in what could be considered illegal behavior by allowing “exemptions” on a regular basis.
(In other words changing the rules or laws for the benefit of unscrupulous activities by Corporations or governments (exemptions provided to the companies attempting to mine coal in the Crows nest Pass, exemptions to so -called financial experts or real estate developers so they can sell bogus lake side property development or investment products, changes made to AIMCO regulations (Alberta Investment Management Company) so the UCP can have input on investment decisions for Alberta government employee pension plans and possibly all Albertan’s government pensions if the UCP scraps the CPP and replaces it with a Alberta pension plan. Just think of Jason Kenney or some other UCP representative making decisions with your CPP pension money.