Ottawa

Whatever holiday meal you serve this year, the price is up

Families who gather to share a meal this holiday season will not only find prices higher than last year, but even higher than what experts predicted.

Turkey, vegetables to cost between 10-15% more this year

At Shepherds of Good Hope, manager Adrienne Arsenault said inflation had prevented some donors from giving as generously as in the past. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Families who gather to share a meal this holiday season will not only find prices higher than last year, but even higher than what experts predicted.

A Canadian food think-tank drew incredulous reactions in 2021 when it predicted the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and continuing supply issues would push food prices higher by seven per cent.

In fact, with 2022 mainly in the rearview mirror, Agri-Food Analytics Lab's Canada Food Price Report shows the actual figure is above 10 per cent.

"We are demanding a lot more. We're through parts of the pandemic at least and we're saying, 'We want to buy things — not just food, we want to buy clothes, we want to buy things online,'" said Kelleen Wiseman, who is from the University of British Columbia's Masters of Food and Resource Economics program, and a contributor to the research.

That pent-up demand has created a rate of food inflation not seen in Canada since the 1980s, said Wiseman.

The price of turkey is up about 15 per cent, while the trimmings for a Christmas dinner, like potatoes, corn and cranberries are not far behind at 10 per cent. 

"I don't think there's one single area that hasn't gone up in price," said farmer Heidi Clement of Ottawa's Bearbrook Game Meats.

The turkeys she raises range freely on grass. The cost of fertilizing the turf around her farm doubled this year from $3,000 to $6,000, with the trucks adding fuel surcharges to the delivery price.

WATCH | The cost at the farm level:

Turkey farmer says she’s raised her prices this year to keep pace with inflation

2 months ago
Duration 0:32
Heidi Clement said she’s raised her prices by $2 per kilogram this year to help offset the rise in fuel, fertilizer and equipment costs.

It's not just turkey dinner

Families from various religions will find these surprises when they gather for the holidays.

Ottawa's Joel Westheimer, whose family typically hosts a large annual Hanukkah party, has been watching the price of cooking oil rise.

The golden liquid, which symbolizes the miraculous persistence of a temple menorah centuries ago, is essential in the cooking of potato latkes and sufganiyot doughnuts, among other holiday foods.

"I think we will bite the bullet on it," said Westheimer on the pending oil purchase, adding he sympathized with families living paycheque to paycheque.

At the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa, volunteer Angie Reshitnyk said the war in Ukraine created an unprecedented demand this fall for the perogies and cabbage rolls produced by the congregation as a fundraiser.

Many of the buyers of those traditional Ukrainian foods will serve them as part of Epiphany celebrations in January.

"We're in the same market, looking for bargains," she said.

Instead of paying springtime prices for cabbage, which might be as much as $2.50 per pound, Reshitnyk, a faithful reader of supermarket flyers, filled the church freezers with greens purchased at 89 cents a pound.

Reshitnyk says the rising price of food meant she and other volunteers needed to hunt for bargains to keep fundraising sales of perogies and cabbage rolls profitable. (Stu Mills/CBC)

At Ottawa's Jaku Konbit, an organization that aims to promote and enhance the best of African and Caribbean culture, ticket prices for a planned Kwanzaa celebration are up.

Organizer Ken Campbell said the meal will be catered by local restaurant Island Grill, whose challenge will be to make an affordable menu that might reflect the diversity of people from Jamaica to Somalia.

"Rice is common, but how people marinate their meats is different," said Campbell.

Prices for the evening of food and entertainment have gone up five dollars to $35 to offset the higher prices of menu items like jerk chicken.

Campbell, Jaku Konbit's president, puts the finishing touches on his organization's Kwanzaa celebration plans. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Inflation is also evident at Ottawa's Shepherds of Good Hope, where volunteers will serve a holiday dinner to hundreds who not be able to afford it otherwise.

"'Our donors are also feeling the effects of the rising costs of food," said manager Adrienne Arsenault.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stu Mills

CBC Ottawa reporter

You can reach Stu Mills by email at stu.mills@cbc.ca.

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