Financial pressures build on food banks in Canada

Food banks busier than ever

Not only has the affordability crisis affected households and businesses, not-for-profits have been hit hard as well.

It was reported the Central Okanagan Food Bank set new records for the number of appointments in January with 9,097, and just under that number in February. To visualize that, it’s more people than could fill Kelowna’s Prospera Place arena.

This comes at a time when Food Banks B.C. reports 30% of all food bank users in the province are children and 20% more seniors are seeking assistance. Tragically, it also reported there's been a 30% drop in donations across British Columbia.

The UBC Student Union Okanagan also reported 43% of undergraduate students experience food insecurity due to the high cost of living.

According to Canada's Food Price Report, the cost of food for the typical family of four is expected to rise by $700 in 2024.

Second Harvest, Canada's largest food rescue organization, says food banks nationwide expect to brace themselves for an 18% increase in demand this year, which translates to more than a million people. Its survey also found the average funding demand per non-profit food program has increased by 13% from last year, which already saw record increases.

There are reports of a Facebook group called the Dumpster Diving Network, where 8,000 Canadians share tips on finding food in dumpsters because they cannot afford groceries. It is unbelievable that this is occurring in Canada. It’s like families and not-for-profits are rowing in one direction while the federal government is going in the other.

A significant driver in the cost-of-living crisis has been the carbon tax set by the federal Liberal government, which is set to increase again, by 23%, on April 1. This will increase the cost across the entire food chain including farmers, manufactures, transporters, warehousers, and retailers.

The federal government mandates what the carbon tax amount is, and it is increasing it every year, with plans to quadruple it (by 2030). Provinces can administer it through charging and collecting themselves (like in B.C., which is why you see “B.C. Carbon Tax” on your home heating bill) or the federal government will. Either way, it’s the same amount.

I recently had a resident forward me his home heating bill, where his gas usage was $50 and the carbon tax was $72. A local small business owner also showed me his gas bill, where $750 was carbon tax. Following the government's plan, the carbon tax will increase from $65 to $80 per tonne on April 1 and is scheduled to rise incrementally to $170 per tonne in 2030. As the carbon tax escalates annually, the financial burden on families and small businesses will intensify.

The operating costs of not for profits are increasing, and the cost to purchase food for food banks is increasing as well.

Conservative MPs tried to force the federal government to cancel the planned April 1 tax hike. Seven provincial governments, Liberals and Conservatives, joined in this effort, calling for the planned 23% increase to be canceled. A recent Leger poll also showed 69% of Canadians oppose increasing the carbon tax on April 1. Unfortunately, Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted down the Conservative motion to cancel the planned increase. As a result, Canadians will continue to pay more for groceries, gas and home heating.

The carbon tax is also not helping Canada meet its climate goals. Last year's Climate Change Performance Index had Canada falling four spots to 62nd out of the 67 countries measured.

I have frequently written about the spirit of Kelowna-Lake Country and the ability of our community to come together quickly to help those in need with repeatedly opening our doors, wallets, and hearts to those struggling. We are blessed with amazing people who give so much of their time volunteering at our local not-for-profit organizations.

My Conservative colleagues and I remain steadfast in advocating to stop tax increases and end the federal carbon tax, in Ottawa.

If you need assistance with federal programs or have any thoughts to share, feel free to reach out, at 250-470-5075 or at [email protected].

Tracy Gray is the Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More In Your Service articles

About the Author

Tracy Gray, Conservative MP for Kelowna-Lake Country, is her party's critic for Employment, Future Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

She is a member of the national caucus committee’s credit union caucus, wine caucus, and aviation caucus.

Gray, who has won the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award, worked for 27 years in the B.C. beverage industry.

She founded and owned Discover Wines VQA Wine Stores, which included the No. 1 wine store in B.C. for 13 years. She has been involved in small businesses in different sectors — financing, importing, oil and gas services and a technology start-up — and is among the “100 New Woman Pioneers in B.C."

Gray was a Kelowna city councillor for the 2014 term, sat on the Passenger Transportation Board from 2010-2012 and was elected to the board of Prospera Credit Union for 10 years.

In addition, she served on the boards of the Okanagan Film Commission, Clubhouse Childcare Society, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Okanagan Regional Library and was chairwoman of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

She volunteers extensively in the community and welcomes connecting with residents.

She can be reached at 250-470-5075, and [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories