Claude Gervais of Sudbury lives on a pension and says that at the end of the month, there isn’t much left to buy life’s necessities.
After paying his rent and vehicle expenses, he has about $100 left for food and other items.
“It includes gas for my cancer treatment in the hospital. So between parking and gas, I can’t afford to live,” Gervais said.
Prices, Gervais said, changed significantly around the start of the pandemic.
“Prices went from acceptable to now almost double what they have been since the pandemic was over,” Gervais said.
According to Statistics Canada, inflation is now at 7.7 percent, the highest since 1983.
“Because the fuel price for the truck drivers, the shops had to pay back their money, so they had to raise everything, but they don’t think about us guys who have retired,” Gervais said.
To meet the needs, Gervais is relying on community groups like Better Starts, Better Futures.
“It’s very, very helpful,” Gervais said. “They don’t even know you, but they talk to you like you’re part of the family, which is really nice to see in the Sudbury area.”
“They help with the clothes that people need, and the food that [donated] From the community, from different companies, from different stores. It helps.”
Genevieve Gibbons is the Community Resource Coordinator at Better Beginnings, Better Futures. The group provides emergency food services – a nutritional bag of food and hygiene items procured from local food banks – that are designed to last for at least 24 hours to an individual or family.
Gibbons said the demand for his group’s services began to increase during the pandemic and continues to grow.
During COVID-19, the group cared for 22 families, Gibbons said. Since then that number has increased to 140 families.
“Our minds are blown because we see and need that growth,” Gibbons said. “As everyone knows, the cost of food is rising and people have lost their jobs even during COVID.”
Better Beginnings Better Futures gets some of its food supplies from Sudbury Food Bank.
Dan Zillon, executive director of Sudbury Food Bank, said they have been able to meet the increased demand, but like other organizations, their costs are rising.
“We’re spending a lot less on food than we were before, because that’s how prices are right now… and the supply isn’t that great,” Xilon said.
“I used to be able to pick up products for a dollar that now cost me $1.50 or $1.75, and it’s the same product.”
Xilon attributes that increase to increased transportation costs, and shortages of some goods and supplies.
In one of the most unique changes to Sudbury Food Bank, Xilon said it’s seeing first-time users — homeowners — need an emergency pull of food.
“Very few people who have homes of their own become people requesting aid from a food bank,” he said.
He said the number of homeowners in need of a few days’ worth of food has increased “significantly” in the past six months.
“They don’t have enough money for food after paying their mortgage, taxes, all their service charges. Just not enough money.”
“And that’s what a food bank is for,” he said. “This is not a supplemental program. A food bank is an organization that helps you with several meals a day when you are very months on end of the money.”