Canadians of all income levels are feeling the pinch of high food prices.
In a new survey by Vancouver-based Angus Reid Institute, more than half of Canadians (57%) said it had become more difficult to afford to feed their households in the last year.
More than half (54%) of those with an income of $100,000 or more said it was getting harder to feed their households; and 58% of those in the $50,000 and $99,999 agreed. Among those with children, two thirds (67%) said the cost of food had put more pressure on their wallets.
“Canadians are definitely feeling the squeeze and what stands out about food affordability right now is the fact that people are feeling it regardless of their income level,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of Angus Reid Institute.
“We know if you’re somebody who is earning a lower income or you’re on a fixed income, it’s not surprising for those folks to really start to feel the brunt of increasing food costs,” she added. “And while they’re certainly feeling it worse than other Canadians, people of all income levels are noticing their food bills going up and they’re making substitutions. They are doing things to absorb those costs, regardless of what their own take-home pay is. So this is, without a doubt, something that affects everybody.”
The survey found rising food prices have led to Canadians making more affordable, but less healthy purchases. A whopping 71% of Canadians have switched to cheaper brands to save money, 61% have cut back on meat, and 42% have cut back on fruit and vegetables. In addition, 40% said they had been choosing less healthy options in the grocery store. This includes nearly half (47%) of those 18-34 and 50% of those with household incomes below $50,000.
“We know from the nutritionists that you’re supposed to be shopping the outside aisles of the store, not the inside aisles where all the processed food is,” said Kurl. “But, people are running to the inside aisles because the outside aisles are getting more and more expensive for them. They’re basically choosing worse food to eat or they’re switching away from premium or organic brands to lower-cost alternatives.”
Rising food prices have also led Canadians to cut back on “extras.” The survey found 72% of consumers had cut back on eating at restaurants, 67% spent less on entertainment, 52% delayed a major purchase (such as furniture or an appliance) and 47% cut back on alcohol.
In its report, Angus Reid Institute noted the Canadian dollar was a key cause of rising food prices. The low loonie has driven up the cost of imported foods, a category that includes 81% of all fruits, vegetables and nuts sold in Canada. In addition, environmental factors such as the drought in California are driving up prices.
Two in three Canadians (63%) said rising food prices hadn’t been receiving enough attention from Canada’s elected leaders, and 53% said the issue was “one of the most important” facing the country today.