Eating the cost: Rising prices hit N.L. families at the dinner table

A women in the fruit aisle of a grocery store, wearing a warm coat. She rests one hand on her shopping cart while thoughtfully weighing an orange in the other.
With the rising price of food, many shoppers are deciding between fresh fruit and vegetables or cheaper canned goods. (Paul Daly/CBC)

By his reckoning, Lincoln Addison’s grocery bill has gone up by at least 20 per cent in the last two weeks alone.

Shopping for a family of four in St. John’s, Addison says he’s seen the cost of everything go up, particularly fresh, healthy food, and traditional staples of the dinner table, leading his family to make some tough choices.

“I would say that we’ve had to change … less meat. Less fruits and vegetables. Trying to get more things in cans. More frozen stuff.”

Addison isn’t alone. The cost of food in the province has everyone keeping an eye on their food bill.

“I will stock up on sales,” says Nina Goudie, also of St. John’s. 

“I won’t buy certain things. I’ll wait. Some things have fallen off the list, so it’s about being a little bit more strategic. I definitely shop at four grocery stores and I look for bargains.”

Goudie says she considers herself and her husband lucky, as they have a pension coming in. But she worries for those around them.

“The federal government determined that you needed a minimum of $2,000 a month for people to survive, but yet people who are less fortunate and are on income support are expected to somehow pay for rent, food, phone, internet, which is an essential service now, out of about half of that. So that’s my concern,” she said.

“I think it’s horrible. I really don’t know how people are managing.”

Jody Williams, heavily tattooed and wearing a relaxed Hawaiian shirt, gestures and stands in the empty industrial kitchen of Bridges to Hope.
Bridges to Hope manager Jody Williams says they’re seeing more and more people who have never been to a food bank before, from students to seniors, as the price of food rises. (Katie Breen/CBC)

In short, not everyone is managing.

Bridges to Hope manager Jody Williams says more and more they are seeing people coming in who have never used a food bank before and, often, are ashamed to be seen doing so. 

“They’re frustrated,” said Willliams. “Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a stigma there. Nobody wants to really go to a food bank per se. So there’s that little bit of, I guess, awkwardness and embarrassment.”

WATCH | Consumers at St. John’s supermarkets tell us their strategies for stretching a food dollar

Bargain-conscious shoppers share strategies for managing their food budgets

We talked to consumers outside N.L. supermarkets about how they are dealing with higher food prices

“Now, we try to make everyone’s experience here as positive one as we can. But certainly, you know, if you have to go to a food bank for the first time in your life, it’s going to create some anxiety. And just even the fact that you have to go to a food bank is a sign, you know, that things aren’t OK right now for you. We’re in dire times.”

With Bridges to Hope often buying food itself — in some cases to compensate for food drives organized by workplaces that didn’t happen because of the number of people who have been working from home the last couple of years — the rising cost of food is a concern as well.

A concerned woman stands in a parking lot in front of a Sobeys grocery store.
Food prices have sent Nina Goudie into bargain hunting mode, but she worries more about people on income support, who aren’t as equipped to deal with rising costs. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

In March, Finance Minister Siobhan Coady announced measures to combat the rising cost of living, including an increase to the income supplement and a one-time benefit for those receiving income support. 

It’s not just a provincial problem. Pandemic-induced supply chain issues were already putting pressure on food prices before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended the global market for oil and gas. 

Since Newfoundland and Labrador announced the measures, food prices have continued to rise, and the average price of gas in Newfoundland and Labrador is almost 40 cents more expensive per litre.

George Masswohl is seeing the difference returning to the province after spending a few months in Ontario.

“There are some things [in the grocery store] that cost three times what they did last time it was around,” said Masswohl.

“They’re going up here as they are everywhere.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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