Food inflation is exploding demand for $5 meals prepared and delivered by an organization that must now make heartbreaking decisions about who to feed first.
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“There is a gap between what people need and what we can provide,” says Cécilia Lessard, director of Carrefour St-Eusèbe in Montreal.
The woman in her 40s sees people go hungry every day. The community organization she leads is dedicated to people aged 50 and over.
Among other things, it offers a service of healthy and balanced meals delivered to the home of customers with limited autonomy. With soup and dessert, the meal costs $5, which is less than cost price.
“With inflation, it costs us more to make something like $5.75. But our customers can’t pay more. Many seniors are already unable to pay at the end of the month,” explains the director.
The program’s current budget provides meals for 70 people. But it could easily be double that.
“We’re over budget, we have to rely on the donations we’re receiving to feed people. I don’t know how things will continue,” laments M.me Lessard.
His team also offers a shopping service. Staff and volunteers go to the grocery store or place the order for elderly customers.
“When you arrive with your $25 groceries, you can see it’s not enough. So we give them free meals on top of that. Demand is everywhere, the budget is exploding,” adds the director.
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Carrefour St-Eusèbe is part of the Food Security Round Table, which brings together 10 organizations in Montreal’s Centre-Sud district.
The Table sent out a cry of alarm in Quebec City this week: without increased funding, these organizations will soon be unable to feed those in need.
“I often cry because I have to endure the disgust of deciding who to give food aid to: an isolated and vulnerable elderly person, or an elderly person whose malnutrition has led to suicidal thoughts. We have arrived at this point,” says Cécilia Lessard.
A few blocks from Carrefour St-Eusèbe you’ll find the area’s largest panel, Information Alimentaire Populaire Centre-Sud, which feeds 2,200 people a year.
“Demand is exploding and we’ve just lost half of our funding. I have a year left of the game before I make any decisions, and the first will be to resign my own job,” illustrates director Julien Scott.
Increase in inquiries in Quebec
Although food donations have declined significantly in the Québec region, setting eligibility criteria for donations is out of the question, much less denying an application for assistance.
For Moisson-Québec, which supplies several food banks in the Quebec region, it is advised that denying an application for assistance is not an option.
“Yes, there is an increase in requests and a decrease in donations, but we haven’t gotten to the point where we’re going to say we’re turning anyone down,” argues Elizabeth Fortin, communications coordinator.
The organization says it still has food in reserve, but admits it will eventually need help, and more importantly, donations.
“I don’t see the day when we’re going to say, ‘No, we can’t help you. We will find solutions to respond to all requests,” she concludes.
At La Bouchée Généreuse, “an unconditional welcome” is reserved for anyone who seeks help.
Pierre Gravel, General Manager, and his daughter Marie-Pierre, Assistant Manager, emphasize that anyone who comes to them in need of help is accepted, regardless of their circumstances.
Photo Stevens LeBlanc
Marie-Pierre Gravel, director of Bouchée Généreuse in Quebec City, reminds us that despite the drop in donations in recent months, anyone who comes forward and needs help is welcomed.
“Unfortunately, medium-sized companies are also suffering enormously at the moment,” complains Mme Gravel.
Now more than ever is the time for solidarity even when they face supply problems.
“We have to work twice as hard to get the same amount of food. [à offrir]’ she ends.