‘It’s not enough’: Vancouver food bank slams Ottawa’s budget grocery rebate

The need is great, but the money is not.

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) says it’s not thrilled with the federal government’s highly touted, one-time grocery rebate.

In Tuesday’s budget, Ottawa detailed how much money people would be able to receive if they are deemed eligible.

“For 11 million low- and modest-income Canadians and families, the Grocery Rebate will provide eligible couples with two children with up to an extra $467, single Canadians without children with up to an extra $234, and seniors with an extra $225 on average,” reads the federal government’s budget posted online.

The money will be handed out via the Canada Revenue Agency’s GST credit, and only once Ottawa passes legislation for the money. Overall, the federal government says the rebate will cost $2.5 billion.

The food bank thinks everyone can agree that the money simply isn’t enough.

“For people who are struggling with food insecurity, it will help in a momentary way for a week, maybe two weeks,” said Cynthia Boulter, chief operating officer of the GVFB. “Obviously, we’re looking for more systemic changes and we often look at how much money we can provide… but honestly there’s enough food out there and most organizations within food security know that.

Related Articles:

“It would be awesome if we could have the government focus on incentives for grocers, for farmers and promote those more so less food goes to waste. There’s so much food going into landfills.”

Boulter wonders if there is another way to help people who are struggling to put food on the table.

“Most people are looking for support in the longer term, like the one received with CERB, for example, or in an indexed pension or social insurance, something indexed to inflation,” she said.

“We’re seeing a lot of clients on fixed incomes who can just no longer keep up and need support with groceries.”

She sees the desperate need first-hand, adding her organization went eight consecutive months signing up to 1,000 new clients every month.

“We’ve never seen volumes like that before,” explained Boulter. “Families where the parents’ income just isn’t enough. Retirees are struggling, so they’re on a fixed income with whatever their investments are, if they had any. We’re seeing a lot of people out of work. We’re seeing medical-related job loss. And we’re seeing international students who’ve been here for a few years whose savings have been used up faster than they anticipated, and they are really struggling.

“It’s so many groups across society and I think that speaks to how serious it is.”

She says the greatest need they typically see is during the summer because kids are out of school and often no longer have access to school food programs. There were calls from advocates in B.C. this month for the federal government to allocate some money to that program in the budget, but it did not.

Boulter says in addition to helping those who need it most, the GVFB is also having a tough go.

“We also continue to get notice after notice from our suppliers about costs going up from anywhere between 10 and 14 per cent. We are a living wage employer, so those costs just went up for us. We have a refrigerated fleet of trucks that are very large and use fuel, so those costs are up.”

She says it wasn’t until this year her organization had the difficult conversation of how long they can sustain their service under such intense demand and financial pressures. “At some point, we’re going to have to put in some restrictions or limits or guidelines if this continues.”

With files from Greg Bowman

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today