Toronto food banks, shoppers fret as low dollar drives up grocery costs

Toronto food banks and shoppers on tight budgets are worried as food prices continue to climb with the low loonie.

As price of food climbs, demand for food banks expected to rise in the GTA

Many grocery shoppers in Toronto are searching for deals as the price of produce and other goods climbs due to the low Canadian dollar. (CBC)

Toronto food banks and shoppers on tight budgets are worried as food prices continue to climb due to the low loonie.

Last year, the average Canadian household spent $325 more on groceries than they had in the previous year, according to University of Guelph researchers. This year, that number could go up another $20. Currently, the Canadian dollar is worth less than 70 cents US. 

Here are some of the increases:

  • Meat could climb by 4.5 per cent
  • Fish and seafood could rise by 3 per cent
  • Dairy, eggs and grains set to rise 2 per cent

Toronto food bank Second Harvest, which picks up unused food and donates it to organizations across the city, expects the demand for its service to climb. Currently, it serves some 22,000 people in the GTA.

"When I see the dollar going down I begin to worry," said Debra Lawson, Second Harvest's executive director.

"What we do every day is going to become harder and harder, and yet it's so critical," she said.

Gail Nyberg, executive director of the Daily Bread food bank, said her suppliers have warned her the cost of fresh food — which the food bank adds to its prepared hampers — is going up.

Shoppers stung by pricey produce

Daily Bread, meanwhile, is trying to help people get the most bang for their grocery buck. It recommends pastas as well as nutritionally-dense meals like sweet potato soup or casseroles. 

At the grocery store, shoppers said they're searching for deals while the loonie slumps.

"You have to look for sales. If you can't find sales, then you're in trouble," one shopper said.

"Maybe I won't be able to eat as much," said another.

Food prices are expected to keep climbing in 2016, with some estimates projecting a rise of 4.5 per cent over the rate of inflation. 

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