Why are we treating the necessity of Food as a Luxury Item at some Local retailers?

Agatha Farmer

In 2017 a news story broke regarding Loblaw and a bread price fixing scheme that had spanned 14 years. For those of who have been shopping for our families over the last decade this wasn't really news. It definitely wasn't a gasping shocker.

As written in a 2017 Globe and Mail article "the parent of Loblaw, George Weston Ltd., which owns bread-maker Weston Bakeries, also admitted to participating in the price-fixing – and said another major bread producer and other big grocery chains were also involved."

Galen G. Weston, chairman and chief executive office of both Loblaw and George Weston, trying to repent for his greedy sins said "This sort of behaviour is wrong and has no place in our business or Canada's grocery industry." While he cowardly provided information under the Competition bureau's "immunity and leniency" program, which gives incentives for parties in exchange for "co-operation against others involved in the cartel," bureau spokesman Marcus Callaghan said.

So when I ventured into my local Independent Grocer the other day, who btw, I already know charges more than most stores in the area with the exception of Metro, I was prepared to spend more. The fact that we don't hold a line on grocery store prices is wrong. If you're looking for artisan then have a separate section or another store all together. But in my case I was looking for your regular Gala apples. I found them at $9.99 for a small bag. Here is the thing; I was prepared to pay at the max $6.99 for this bag knowing that I was at this specific store. Same bag of apples at Walmart just a hop scotch down the parking lot is approx. $4.99. But my jaw dropped when I saw them for $10!

In a Canadian Grocer article published on April 8, 2020 a food professor said price gouging on food is difficult to prove. Clearly he is correct as it took 14 years for Weston's dealings to surface. He also states the risks are too high for grocery stores to gouge. "Social media makes it so easy to call out suspicious practices, whether or not the accusations are valid," he said. Here is the problem with his argument, I see people complaining about grocery prices daily on social media. I just think that corporate grocery stores simply no longer care. Deal with it, it's the cost and price of food is the attitude now. Knowing and following people in the farming and vegetable box industry I have been made aware that we are slowly pricing ourselves out of food security. Here are the grim grocery stats for 2021:

While RBC is forecasting a 2 to 2.5 per cent rise in food prices for 2021, Canada's Food Price Report is predicting a steeper rise of 3 to 5 per cent overall. Meat and vegetable prices are expected to increase between 4.5 and 6.5 per cent, while fruits are expected to cost between 2 and 4 per cent more.

This is a massive increase for some people who are on a fixed budget. Like seniors. Next to my Independent grocer is a retirement home village. Very often seniors no longer drive and walk to the nearest grocery store. Someone today told me that if people don't want to spend more at their local grocery store they can shop for less at Walmart next door. I wonder if those are the same people screaming bloody murder if someone dares not to shop at a local store. When the local population is being priced out of said local store, it's hard to shop local.

Today independent MPP Roman Baber will be introducing a bill in the Ontario legislature to cut our politician's six figure salaries to the amount of CERB. Perhaps if they lived on $500 per week which is actually more than some seniors and the disabled receive, they would be more willing to regulate the price of a necessity like food. Without access to healthy food the human civilization ceases to exist. It's that simple. Perhaps during a pandemic, when your health is of outmost importance, this issue should be addressed.

The Muskoka community has shown signs of sustainable permaculture systems. There are small family owned farms popping up consistently in the region. My family and I are in the process of selling our home and looking for land to build a homestead for exactly this purpose. Now more than ever establishing a connection with the earth's biodiversity is paramount for our food security. While price gouging at grocery stores should be addressed and remedied, policies to support small community homesteads as well as indoor farming with grants and funding should be equally important to establish on the horizon municipally, provincially and federally.

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