EDMONTON - Today, Parliament is summoning grocery CEOs including Loblaws CEO Galen Weston to testify about the astronomical price of food. Progressive advocacy organization Public Interest Alberta and the University of Alberta Campus Food Bank called for immediate action to protect citizens from grocery profiteering and upstream solutions for the affordability crisis.
Bradley Lafortune, the Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta pointed out the dire economic situation for Albertans.
“We know that times are incredibly hard for Albertans,” said Lafortune. “Alberta leads the nation in food insecurity. Demand for food banks is through the roof. We know over half of Albertans are just $200 away from not meeting their financial obligations.”
The University of Alberta Campus Food Bank's Executive Director Erin O'Neil explained the acute impact of the affordability crisis on post-secondary students in Alberta. The food bank now provides food for 200 households per week and more than 20 percent of users cannot afford to feed themselves beyond the emergency food that the service provides.
“Currently, one third of students who live alone and one quarter of student households with children are making do with less than $1,000 per month for expenses. More than 90 percent of solo students and 50 percent of student households with children are living at or below the poverty line,” said O’Neil. “As food prices skyrocketed in the last year, it is no surprise that demand for our supplementary grocery program tripled since the summer.”
“We know that corporate welfare and pandemic profiteering is rampant across the country,” said Lafortune. 'We also know for a fact that the grocery stores' claims that they're not profiting from inflation is patently false. Alberta’s situation is accelerated due to the corporatist, privatizing, and austerity-driven agenda of the UCP that Albertans have been subjected to for the past 4 years.”
“The UCP has taken a bad situation and made it worse,” said Lafortune. “Their corporate giveaways are a slap in the face to working people across the province. Their paltry affordability measures are conveniently designed to expire after a close provincial election.”
While the Campus Food Bank was able to access some provincial support specifically for food banks, other campus food banks in Edmonton are struggling and students themselves have received no relief. The province’s promised 2 percent tuition cap won’t go into effect until September 2024, after four consecutive years of 5 to 7 percent tuition hikes.
"That so-called relief is so far in the future that it’s comical,” said O’Neil. “Alberta students are facing uncontrolled rent increases and up to 29 percent cumulative tuition increases in four years. They need immediate financial support and it doesn’t appear to be coming from the province.”
“We need all levels of government to work together in the best interest of people above corporate profit,” said Lafortune. “And that means curbing pandemic and inflation profiteering and taxing these corporations and wealthy shareholders so that all of us can access well-funded public services that make life more equitable for all, not just those who can afford to pay.”
“Every Albertan deserves better than to be up with sleepless nights wondering how they will put food on the table,” said Lafortune. “And quite frankly, how is it that these grocery store CEOs can sleep at night knowing that they are gouging families all across the country?”