30-year-high inflation and stressed supply lines causing strain on Vancouver Island food banks


Food banks on Vancouver Island are under increased pressure due to higher amounts of people accessing their services and supply chain issues.

At Rainbow Kitchen in Esquimalt, everyone in need of a meal gets one, no questions asked.

Four full-time staff and 200 volunteers kept this food bank and soup kitchen up and running through the pandemic, where the demand is only increasing.

“We see more guests, a lot more than we used to. We would normally see one new face every month, we’re seeing one new guest every day,” said Patrick Johnstone, executive director of Rainbow Kitchen.

This past year, Rainbow Kitchen has seen a “drastic” increase in demand. Their lunch program alone has almost doubled, and their annual total of meals made is up from 100,000 to 140,000 from 2020 to 2021.

“Where we would serve 150 guests on a busy day, we’re now doing 250 meals to go in less time, with fewer hands and the donations are continuing to be unpredictable,” said Johnstone.

While food retailers and wholesalers struggle with stressed supply lines due to the pandemic, winter weather, trucker vaccine mandate, and now a looming Seaspan strike, what’s left to donate to places like Rainbow Kitchen remains even more uncertain than ever.

Further adding to the strain, inflation in Canada has reached a 30 year high. Statistics Canada reporting it at 4.8 per cent this past December.

The cost of shelter, home and mortgage insurance, building supplies, vehicles, flights, and food – like fresh fruit, sugar, cereal, and meats – have all jumped.

And wages aren’t keeping up.

But some experts expect that to change.

“In my opinion, is going to be a catch-up year, where very tight labour markets have more people going to the bosses and saying, pay up,” said Derek Holt,  vice president and head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.

For now, inflation is taking a big bite out of Canadian’s budgets. And it’s creating even more people who need places like Rainbow Kitchen, while simultaneously clinching down on peoples ability to give.

“What’s left to donate to places like Rainbow Kitchen has changed a lot and remains really unpredictable.”

The Bank of Canada is increasingly expected to step in to raise interest rates, even as early as next week to try to get the high inflation under control.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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