November 24, 2022

Inflation, supply chain issues and staffing shortages strain Wood Buffalo Food Bank

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Rising food costs, global supply chain issues and staffing issues caused by turnover and COVID-19 are straining the Wood Buffalo Food Bank (WBFB).

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Dan Edwards, executive director of the WBFB, said in an interview Thursday that grocery stores are among the food bank’s biggest suppliers. When they’re struggling, so is the food bank.

“We place our product order and half of it doesn’t arrive, because the store doesn’t get it and it’s not that we miss the store, it’s just that they’re also running out, so we can’t get the order because it hasn’t arrived,” Edwards said, adding that fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by.

“You have a finite number to spend, so I can spend ‘X’ dollars, but when the cost goes up, I get less for the same amount, so we see decreases in what we can buy in terms of quantity. »

The food bank distributed 400 food baskets in January, up from 601 baskets distributed in January 2021. But Edwards said demand continued to rise; the least hindrance was due to the fact that appointments had to be canceled due to lack of staff.

The organization ended 2021 with no signs of slowing demand. The food bank averaged 32 new clients each month. Between August 2020 and July 2021the end of the food bank’s fiscal year, the organization distributed 6,137 monthly baskets which fed 12,776 people across Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. Between August and October of this year, 1,421 monthly baskets were distributed.

Demand has increased since 2013 and exploded when global oil prices crashed in late 2014. Since 2013, the only annual declines reported by the food bank were in 2016 and 2020. Indeed, the food bank briefly closed these years due to the 2016 Horse River Fire and April 2020 Flood.

Grocery prices also rose nearly 6% year over year, according to the Bank of Canada’s January Monetary Policy Report. This number will likely continue to increase this year.

Supply chain issues have been a regular issue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with government restrictions at border crossings slowing or temporarily halting the flow of products.

-With files by Josh Aldrich and Vincent McDermott

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