New Brunswick

Food banks worry as CERB ends during time of rising costs

Food banks already seeing a rise in clients because of increasing food and gas prices are bracing for even more use as federal COVID-19 relief ends.

Households using one Moncton food bank doubled from August to September

Moncton's Peter McKee Community Food Centre served 212 new clients in September. (CBC)

Food banks already seeing a rise in clients because of increasing food and gas prices are bracing for even more use as federal COVID-19 relief ends.

Canada's inflation rate rose to a near 20-year high in September, hovering at around four per cent. Economists predict prices will keep on climbing well into winter.

Food banks say the recent end to the Canada emergency response benefit, known as CERB, will increase reliance on their service. 

Heather Richards, general manager of the Peter McKee Community Centre in Moncton, said 79 new households, amounting to 212 people, joined the food centre in September alone.

"In August we only had 40 new households, so it's already starting to climb by large numbers," she told Information Morning Moncton.

Richards said as the pandemic financial assistance runs out, she's expecting more clients in the coming weeks.

"We're expecting it to be difficult in some ways to keep our shelves stocked," she said.

Mark LeBlanc, executive director of the Vestiaire Saint-Joseph in Shediac, said 65 per cent of its clients started using the services in the months after the pandemic was declared. He said inflation not only impacts the users of the food banks, but the organizations too.

"Food banks also pay for food for the most part," he told Information Morning Moncton. "So we're seeing a rise in our costs, you know, whether it be utilities or food."

He said his organization is preparing by increasing fundraising and trying to find a way to circumvent donor fatigue.

Richards said her organization could not hold many food drives during the pandemic because of COVID restrictions. As  restrictions are loosened, more people drop off food and donations, and she's hoping to organize more food drives.

Richards and LeBlanc said they're also preparing for the regular increase in use over the winter holidays.

LeBlanc said cash donations are best because the food bank can get better deals on food by buying in bulk.

"The fact of the matter is … there are people out there that need help," he said. "We really do encourage you to reach out. And if you know someone that needs help, that's what we're here for. But in order for us to be here, we need to be supported as well."

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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