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People waiting around 15 days for food hampers, says struggling Calgary Food Bank

The president and CEO of the Calgary Food Bank says donations from Calgarians aren't stretching as far as they used to because of price increases. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)
The president and CEO of the Calgary Food Bank says donations from Calgarians aren't stretching as far as they used to because of price increases. (Terri Trembath/CBC - image credit)

The head of the Calgary Food Bank says inflation is among the issues adding up to increased wait times for food hampers — now around 15 days.

Melissa From, Calgary Food Bank president and CEO, says the issue has been compounding for a while.

"It is almost like we're bailing out a boat and someone's pouring more water in than we're getting out," she said.

She added there are a number of reasons for the long wait times. Among them, she said, is increased prices at Calgary grocery stores.

Terri Trembath/CBC
Terri Trembath/CBC

"To the point where we have folks who maybe at one point would have been donating in our food bins who are now showing up on our doorstep asking for support. So there's all these different pieces at play," From said, noting the donations from Calgarians aren't stretching as far as they used to.

"At the end of the day, it's food and money … it is as simple as resources in, resources out," she said.

A local economist says the population boom in Alberta has depressed wages, which means the impact of inflation is being felt more acutely in the province than anywhere else in Canada.

Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist with Alberta Central, said people in Alberta are paying the same increased prices for things like groceries, gas and household goods.

But they're not getting the same raise at work to help cover the costs.

From added that an increase in Ukrainian newcomers fleeing the war has also driven up demand.

From said the food bank is working to catch up by increasing distribution in May, which will continue until the backlog is cleared. The increase will start at an extra 100 hampers a day — bringing the number of distributed hampers to 600 to 650.

Arianna Johnson of Food Banks Alberta said food bank usage has increased since 2019.

Food Banks Alberta represents more than 100 food distribution organizations across the province.

She said challenges for food banks are often the same that their clients are facing — the rising cost of transportation, increased cost of food and rent.

She says food banks are developing strategies to keep up with demands, including decreasing hamper size.

"Food banks have had to increase the number of food drives they're doing. They've had to cut back on the amount of food they're giving out because, unfortunately, the dollar today doesn't go as far as the dollar of yesterday."