British Columbia

Student food charity bracing for back-to-school demand, spike in food prices

A B.C. charity that provides nutritious food to students in need says it's concerned about meeting demand this fall and rising food prices.

Backpack Buddies says it expects to send food home to 4,000 students this fall, up from 1,300

A volunteer with the charity Backpack Buddies distributes food as part of the organization's school children weekend food program. (Backpack Buddies)

A B.C. charity that provides nutritious food to students in need says it's concerned about meeting demand this fall and rising food prices.

Not only has demand for Backpack Buddies' food packs ramped up by thousands since the beginning of the pandemic, but its co-founder says the price of food has spiked and are forecast to rise even further on some essential items.

"We are really bracing ourselves for what we expect to be a really huge demand," said Emily-anne King. "The pandemic has done nothing but worsen food security for families.

"People who were never concerned about where their next meal was coming from or how they were going to feed their kids suddenly found themselves in this position of uncertainty."

Backpack Buddies has more than 180 sites across the province. It provides bags of non-perishable, ready-to-eat food items each Friday to schools, which are distributed to children who may lack access to proper food over the weekend when school breakfast or lunch programs aren't available.

King says the pandemic has worsened access to food for thousands of families. 

When the pandemic started, in March 2020, she said the organization was sending weekend food backpacks home with 1,300 children. As classes resume this week, it's expecting to provide 4,000 children with the service.

A child opens up their weekend food pack sent home at the end of the school week by the charity Backpack Buddies. (Backpack Buddies)

Now, suppliers have warned the service to expect spikes in food prices. Some canned goods such as beans and pastas could see cost increases from four to 38 per cent.

In December, researchers behind an annual food report said grocery bills would see a record-setting increase in 2021 due to labour shortages, logistics disruptions, food-plant and distribution-centre slowdowns, and shifts in consumer demand.

"I know that if we're feeling it, these families living with food insecurity are feeling that as well," said King.

King said that an increase in the cost of living for many people has resulted in families, who did not need support in the past, asking for help from programs like Backpack Buddies.

"We're expecting somewhere around $10,000 more in food expenses a month," she said. "We're feeling that massively as an organization.

"It's concerning for us, but it's even more concerning for families facing this on store shelves ... This is the kind of thing that can tip them over the edge."


David P. Ball


David P. Ball is a multimedia journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He has previously reported for the Toronto Star, Agence France-Presse, The Globe & Mail, and The Tyee, and has won awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Jack Webster Foundation. Send story tips or ideas to, or contact him via social media (@davidpball).