Sky-high food prices were one of many negative impacts that Canadians felt during the pandemic-plagued year of 2021. And a new report suggests that problem is only going to get worse next year.
Canada’s Food Price Guide, released today, is an annual report published by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph that’s the most comprehensive set of data currently available about a subject that all Canadians are impacted by: food.
As with everything else, supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on food prices and availability. Weather events such as the heat dome also didn’t help put food on the table.
“The meat counter was a big deal this year,” said Sylvain Charlebois, the chief researcher on the report and a professor studying food distribution and security at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“It really pushed food inflation much higher.”
This time last year, the report was forecasting an increase of between three and five per cent for food prices, with a theoretical family of four consisting of one man, one woman, one boy, and one girl, on track to pay about $13,907 to feed themselves in 2021.
As it turns out, they were only over by $106. The report tabulates that theoretical family ended up spending $13,801 to feed themselves this year.
Grocery bills set to rise even more
In the coming year, Charlebois says food price inflation is on track to be higher with a likely increase of between five and seven per cent — or an extra $966 for the typical family grocery bill
“It’s the highest increase that we’re predicting in 12 years, both in terms of dollars and percentage,” Charlebois said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
As usual, different types of food are expected to go up in price at different rates, with dairy and baked goods expected to be comparatively much more pricey, while past culprits like meat and seafood will look comparatively flat.
The report says dairy is set to get more expensive because of higher input costs for things like feed, energy and fertilizer, along with higher transportation and labour costs. The Canadian Dairy Commission warned as much in a report last month, asking the government to allow an 8.4 per cent increase in retail milk prices to account for those added costs on the production side.
Baked goods, meanwhile, are in for sharp price increases largely because the hot summer on the prairies was devastating to wheat and other crops, the report says.
The other reasons for the uptick are varied, but an increasingly large factor is the growing cost of food waste. More than half of all the food produced in Canada gets thrown out, research suggests, and that inefficiency is finally starting to show up at the cash register at a time when Canadians are counting their pennies more than ever.
Which is why some Canadians are trying to do something about it.
Jagger Gordon is the founder of Feed It Forward, a non-profit program that has set up nearly a dozen pay-what-you-can grocery stores across Canada to give people access to nutritious and affordable food.
Gordon, a chef, says he was inspired to develop the idea when he did catered events and was horrified by the amount of food that went to waste.
“I wanted to showcase how we can eliminate that food waste, be socially responsible and give dignity back to people by utilizing it and putting it back into meals and onto their tables,” Jagger said in an interview at his location on Dundas St. in downtown Toronto.
The food on the shelves at the store comes from various grocery stores, bakeries, processing plants, restaurants and other agencies in and around the city. Shoppers can come in and browse the selection of food on offer to cook themselves, or get recipes and a pre-made selections of meals on site, without having to necessarily worry if they can afford it when it comes time to leave the store. For every $5 a customer chooses to pay, they can get about $20 worth of food, Gordon says.
The system works in large part because it takes advantage of food that other food businesses can’t sell but is otherwise perfectly fine — food that’s about to expire, for example, or fresh vegetables that aren’t the right shape.
“A lot of grocery stores also, if there’s one grape that’s gone fuzzy in a package, they’ll destroy the whole package rather than taking the time just to pull it out,” Gordon said. “What shocks me is the resources that are put into all have that production for that plant or product to be developed to be destroyed so easily.”
Big discounts possible
Charlebois says there’s a growing trend from some stores and consumers to try to bring down that waste by finding ways to sell it to those who want it.
“Grocers are empowering consumers to rescue food more [by] showcasing products that are about to expire at a discount 25 to 50 per cent off,” he said. “People are starting to realize that the aesthetics that we see in the grocery store is costing us money.”
While many consumers have embraced a new trend for organic food, Gordon says it’s made food waste even worse in some ways. “They blemish fast,” he said. “They’ll be just discarded or destroyed sooner.”
It’s not hard to find Canadians who are changing their habits and making different choices in their grocery cart or restaurant menus to try to offset rising costs.
Browsing the aisles of the grocery store in St. John’s, Myrtle Mitchell says she’s had to change how she shops because of higher costs. “Prices are almost double,” she said in an interview, which puts stress on her fixed income.
She tries to shop on sale where she can, but she can only do so much. Which is why at the grocery store, she goes straight to the essentials first “then I circle around and then I go up and down the extra rows. If I know I’ve got money left, I go and pick up extra groceries that I have extra stock for.”
WATCH | How higher food prices are affecting this senior on a fixed income:
It’s a similar story for Nicola Moore in Hamilton. When the pandemic started, she worried about access to food, so she got into gardening to feed her family. “I ended up harvesting … spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes … a garden variety of vegetables,” she said in an interview. “That helped me financially because …I got it for free basically just by going and watering every day.”
Growing a garden was helpful but ultimately she still needs to go to the store for food, and she, too, says she’s changing how she does that. “I’m hunting for bargains. I’m looking for coupons online. I have an app on my phone that tells me when the sales are.”
Back in Toronto, at the pay-what-you-can grocery store, Jerry Oshomah has nothing but rave reviews for what his neighbour Gordon is doing to help Canadians who need a hand with sky-high food prices
“In the pandemic, it’s a little bit difficult because people work from home, and the pain is a little bit high, but it’s okay,” he said, while buying some soup for himself and drinks for his staff at his nearby office.
“It’s a very good store for the neighborhood,” he said. “This guy is good — he helps everybody.”
‘Off to Canada’: India’s jobs crisis exasperates its youth
Srijan Upadhyay supplied fried snacks to small eateries and roadside stalls in the poor eastern Indian state of Bihar before COVID-19 lockdowns forced most of his customers to close down, many without paying what they owed him.
With his business crippled, the 31-year-old IT undergraduate this month travelled to Rajpura town in Punjab state to meet with consultants who promised him a work visa for Canada. He brought along his neighbour who also wants a Canadian visa because his commerce degree has not helped him get a job.
“There are not enough jobs for us here, and whenever government vacancies come up, we hear of cheating, leaking of test papers,” Upadhyay said, waiting in the lounge of Blue Line consultants. “I am sure we will get a job in Canada, whatever it is initially.”
India‘s unemployment is estimated to have exceeded the global rate in five of the last six years, data from Mumbai-based the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and International Labour Organization show, due to an economic slowdown that was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Having peaked at 23.5% in April 2020, India’s joblessness rate dropped to 7.9% last month, according to CMIE.
The rate in Canada fell to a multi-month-low of 5.9% in December, while the OECD group of mostly rich countries reported a sixth straight month of decline in October, with countries including the United States suffering labour shortages as economic activity picks up.
Graphic: Unemployment Rate- https://graphics.reuters.com/INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/INDIA/zjvqknbzxvx/chart.png
What’s worse for India, its economic growth is producing fewer jobs than it used to, and as disheartened jobseekers instead take menial roles or look to move overseas, the country’s already low rate of workforce participation – those aged 15 and above in work or looking for it – is falling.
“The situation is worse than what the unemployment rate shows,” CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas told Reuters. “The unemployment rate only measures the proportion who do not find jobs of those who are actively seeking jobs. The problem is the proportion seeking jobs itself is shrinking.”
Graphic: Labour participation rate (LPR)- https://graphics.reuters.com/INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/jnvwejnnlvw/chart.png
VOCAL FOR LOCAL
Critics say such hopelessness among India’s youth is one of the biggest failures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first came to power in 2014 with his as yet unfulfilled promise of creating millions of jobs.
It also risks India wasting its demographic advantage of having more than two-thirds of its 1.35 billion people of working age https://data.oecd.org/pop/working-age-population.htm.
The ministries of labour and finance did not respond to requests for comment. The labour ministry’s career website had more than 13 million active jobseekers as of last month, with only 220,000 vacancies.
The ministry told parliament in December that “employment generation coupled with improving employability is the priority of the government”, highlighting its focus on small businesses.
Modi’s rivals are now trying to tap into the crisis ahead of elections in five states, including Punjab and most populous Uttar Pradesh, in February and March.
“Because of a lack of employment opportunities here, every kid looks at Canada. Parents hope to somehow send their kids to Canada,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Admi Party is a front-runner in Punjab elections, told a recent public function there.
“I assure you, within five years they will start returning because we will create so many opportunities for them here.”
He did not explain, but party workers said their policies would attract job-creating businesses.
Punjab’s neighbour Haryana, home to local offices of many global IT companies and an automobiles hub, has already ordered that most jobs there be reserved for locals. A political party in Punjab has promised something similar if voted to power.
“To an extent, if a particular sector is doing well, then some arrangements can be made to ensure that local youth get opportunities,” said Amit Basole, head of the Centre for Sustainable Employment in Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.
“But if overall job creation is weak, then such policies do not solve the underlying problem. And they may also make things worse by reducing investment.”
CMIE’s Vyas said India needs more investment in labour-intensive industries and should bring more women into the labour force, like Bangladesh has done through its garments factories.
“NO ONE DELIVERS”
Between 2018 and 2021, India suffered its longest period of slowdown since 1991, with unemployment averaging 7.2%, CMIE data shows. Global unemployment averaged around 5.7% in that period.
The jobs shortage is particularly problematic for a country like India where annually 12 million people reach employment age. The economy has not grown fast enough to absorb so many people, economists say.
Also, the increase in workforce for every percent rise in gross domestic product has shrunk: the economy will have to grow at 10% to raise employment by 1%, said Basole of Azim Premji University.
In the 1970s and 1980s, when GDP growth was 3% to 4%, employment grew around 2%, Basole has found.
Back in Punjab, Blue Line counsellor Lovepreet said business was booming, with his agency handling some 40 clients a day.
“I have been doing this for four years,” said the 27-year-old, who gave only one name. “I am off to Canada myself, this year or next year. Politicians keep promising us government jobs, but no one delivers.”
Unemployment Rate https://tmsnrt.rs/3KBgLNn
Labour participation rate (LPR) https://tmsnrt.rs/3KyAVYt
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
COVID-19 blamed for greatest drop in life expectancy in Canada since 1921 – CBC.ca
Statistics Canada says the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an average seven-month decline in national life expectancy, the largest decrease recorded since 1921 when the vital statistics registration system was introduced.
The federal agency released preliminary data Monday showing national life expectancy, which is estimated on an annual basis, was 81.7 years for those born in 2020 — down from 82.3 the year before.
The drop was greater for men, at more than eight months, than for women, at nearly five months. The largest declines in the country were observed in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
There were 307,205 deaths in Canada in 2020, representing a 7.7 per cent increase from 2019. Of those, 16,151 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic, representing 5.3 per cent of the country’s 2020 deaths.
That made COVID-19 the third leading cause of death in Canada in 2020, though Statistics Canada added that the pandemic may have also contributed indirectly to a number of other deaths across the country.
Cancer was the leading cause of death at 26.4 per cent while heart disease was second at 17.5 per cent.
Statistics Canada found that mortality rates for cancer, heart disease and COVID-19 were higher in lower-income neighbourhoods.
Unintentional injuries were the fourth leading cause of death at five per cent, with stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes mellitus, influenza and pneumonia, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis rounding out the top 10.
Greater impact in U.S.
Though Canada’s life expectancy fell in 2020, it was still among the highest in the world over that year, Statistics Canada said.
Some countries, including Spain, Italy and the United States saw greater impact on life expectancy from the pandemic, with declines up to 1.5 years. Others, including Norway, Denmark and Finland, saw life expectancy remain stable or even increase in 2020, despite the pandemic.
Statistics Canada said life expectancy for those born in 2020 is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels as the impacts of the health crisis diminish.
The data released Monday is preliminary, Statistics Canada said, and does not include information on deaths in Yukon.
The rate of influenza and pneumonia deaths in 2020 was 12.9 deaths per 100,000 population, a decline from the 15.6 deaths per 100,000 seen in 2019. That marked the lowest death rate attributed to flu and pneumonia in more than 20 years.
People aged 65 years and older accounted for 94.1 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada in 2020, with more than half — 54.6 per cent — occurring in people older than 84.
Canadians younger than age 40 were largely unaffected by the direct effects of the pandemic, Statistics Canada said, with approximately 50 COVID-19 deaths recorded among that age group in 2020. But the agency added that in younger age groups, increases in deaths attributed to other causes, including substance-related harms, were observed.
Canada recorded 4,604 deaths due to accidental poisonings, including overdoses. That figure was up from 3,705 deaths reported in 2019 but comparable to the 4,501 deaths reported in 2018 and the 4,830 deaths reported in 2017 at the height of the pre-pandemic opioids crisis.
Statistics Canada also said there were “notable increases” in alcohol-induced deaths in 2020, particularly in those younger than 65. In people under 45, alcohol-induced deaths rose to 542 in 2020, from around 360 in each of 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The agency said alcohol-induced deaths include fatalities from diseases and conditions related to chronic use of alcohol but exclude unintentional deaths such as traffic accidents where alcohol is believed to be a contributing factor.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Monday – CBC News
Proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is now required to access big-box and other large-scale retail stores across Quebec.
Premier François Legault previously announced that Quebecers will have to show their vaccination passport starting today if they wish to enter stores with floor surfaces of 1,500 square metres or more.
The measure comes as Legault continues to focus measures on unvaccinated residents in an effort to curb COVID-19-related hospitalizations, which soared in recent weeks but have declined for the past four days in a row.
Proof-of-vaccination requirements do not apply to stores that primarily sell pharmacy or grocery products.
Quebec expanded its vaccination passport system last week to cannabis and liquor stores.
- Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The province’s COVID-19 update posted Monday showed 3,299 hospitalizations — an increase of 16 from a day earlier. The number of people in intensive care units stood at 263 — down by 10 from a day earlier.
Health officials in Quebec also reported 52 additional deaths and 2,807 additional lab-confirmed cases. Because of limits on PCR testing, officials in the province have cautioned that the number of new cases is likely significantly higher.
Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant is set to announce a plan for unvaccinated Quebecers later this afternoon alongside Daniel Paré, the head of the province’s immunization campaign.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those in hospital for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region — including seven-day average test positivity rates — in its daily epidemiological updates.
In Central Canada, Ontario on Monday reported 3,861 hospitalizations, an increase of 64 from the previous day. According to the provincial COVID-19 dashboard, there were 615 people in the province’s intensive care units, up by 11 from a day earlier.
The province also reported 37 additional deaths and 4,790 lab-confirmed cases.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick health officials on Sunday reported two additional COVID-19-related deaths and 545 additional lab-confirmed cases. The province said a total of 126 people were in hospital, including 10 in intensive care units.
Prince Edward Island saw two additional COVID-19 related deaths over the weekend, bringing the number of deaths recorded on the island to six. The latest data from the province showed nine people in hospital with COVID-19.
Nova Scotia on Sunday said there were 85 people in hospital who were admitted due to COVID-19 and were receiving specialized care. Eleven people were in intensive care units, the province said in a statement, which noted that more than 200 others were in hospital with COVID-19, including those who had contracted the virus after they were admitted to hospital.
The province also reported an additional 503 lab-confirmed cases.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, 19 people were in hospital with COVID-19, health officials said in a tweet on Sunday. The province, which is set to send students back to classrooms later this week, also reported 361 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19.
In the Prairie provinces, Saskatchewan on Sunday said 252 people were in hospital, up from 244 a day earlier, the province’s COVID-19 dashboard showed. Of those, 26 patients were in intensive care units across the province. Health officials also reported 1,629 additional lab-confirmed cases.
Manitoba and Alberta are expected to provide updated information covering the weekend later on Monday.
Across the North, Nunavut on Sunday reported 26 additional cases of COVID-19. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories are expected to provide updated information about the state of the pandemic later Monday.
British Columbia health officials don’t report COVID-19 data over the weekend. An update covering the three-day period since Friday is expected later Monday.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Monday morning, more than 351.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.5 million.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is warning that conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge, saying it’s dangerous to assume Omicron is the last one or that “we are in the endgame.” Tedros also said the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year — if some key targets are met, including WHO’s target to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population of every country by the middle of this year.
“It’s true that we will be living with COVID for the foreseeable future and that we will need to learn to manage it through a sustained and integrated system for acute respiratory diseases” to help prepare for future pandemics, he said. “But learning to live with COVID cannot mean that we give this virus a free ride. It cannot mean that we accept almost 50,000 deaths a week from a preventable and treatable disease.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, Beijing’s city government introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of COVID-19, as China’s capital continued to report new local cases of the virus less than two weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games.
India reported over 300,000 new COVID-19 infections for the fourth straight day, even though the caseload over the last 24 hours was slightly lower than a day before, data released by the government on Sunday showed.
In Europe, tens of thousands of people protested in Brussels, Belgium, against COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, some clashing with police who fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse them near the European Commission’s headquarters.
Russia on Monday reported a new record number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spread across the country, the government coronavirus task force said. Daily new cases jumped to 65,109, from 63,205 a day earlier. The task force also reported 655 deaths.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Sunday reported 1,931 new cases of COVID-19 and 114 additional deaths.
Due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> mortality cases reported. Today, the NDoH reports 114 deaths and of these, 17 occurred in the past 24 – 48 hours. This brings the total fatalities to 94 177 to dat
In the Middle East, health officials in Iran on Monday said 21 people had died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. The country also reported 7,691 additional cases.
In the Americas, the United States — the World Health Organization’s top donor — is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts on the Biden administration’s long-term support.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who recently recovered from his second infection, reassured Mexicans he was in good health following an overnight hospital stay.
-From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 10:55 a.m. ET
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