Issue of food security needs to be dealt with now

Food insecurity growing

A recent survey showed 20% of all respondents are reducing meal sizes or skipping meals in order to save money. That is in addition to food bank use up 40% and the school breakfast program use surging.

People are having a hard time with the escalating cost of food.

This is no wonder with food inflation in B.C. skyrocketing. Grocery store pricing is up by 11.4%, more than 10% for two months in a row, which is the highest cost escalation in 40 years.

So, if it feels like everything is costing more, it is.

The high price of food affects women three times more than men and youth are also reporting disproportionately being impacted. UBC students staged a walkout last week to protest, in part, a lack of university action on food insecurity.

The percentage of British Columbians struggling with the cost of food was higher than the national average, because our food costs are higher than in other provinces. People are struggling to feed themselves.

This inflation is being fought through interest rate escalation. Unfortunately, economists are telling us that inflation-fighting tool disproportionately affects lower socioeconomic demographics, and will further the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.”

Food security is serious. In B.C., we are fortunate to have so many agricultural resources, but are we supporting them enough? Why isn’t farming as profitable as it would seem to be with the price escalations we are seeing? Why is the cost of food going up? Farmers are also suffering under inflation. The cost of their labour has gone up, they are paying new taxes on their labour called the Employer Health Tax, on top of paying for private health care for their employees.

The farming industry has also seen the cost of machinery and equipment go up in addition to taxes on their vehicles, like trucks. Then there is the cost of fuel.

One rancher I spoke to reported having normal fuel costs of $30,000 in the past but now it costs $140,000 for the same month.

So the input costs for food have risen exponentially, but the revenues have not gone up by that same percentage.

If farming isn’t sustainable, our food won’t be either and if our food isn’t secure, neither is our economy and our society. There is a direct link between all of these aspects of our community.

So what do we do?

The B.C. government needs to do more to curb cost escalation of food. Many of the taxes and costs I mentioned are directly related to taxes that have been added by the government in recent years.

The taxes the government has on our fuel is why we have the most expensive fuel costs in North America.

Yes, you read that correctly, the highest in North America.

Supports for farmers should be given and streamlined processes should be created. Direct sales and more farmers’ markets should be created. But while we wait for government to act, we can all support our local food organizations, agencies and those feeding those in need.

On example is the Gurdwara Guru Armadas Sikh Society and its application for a new site. The site would include a larger facility, as well as gardens to feed the need and train people going through difficult times. As many know, the Gurdwaras feed thousands in our community each year.

I recently heard of students eating daily at the Gurdwara as they struggled with the escalation of food costs. The generosity of the Sikh community is extraordinary.

Give to the food bank. Give to our school feeding programs, so they can give to the children in need in our communities.

My question to you this week is:

How are you coping with the inflated cost of food?

I love hearing from you. Please email me at [email protected] or call me at 250-712-3620.

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

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

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

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