Daily Gleaner: Taking a bite out of income

Tammy Greer is shown at her mother's house Tuesday afternoon. She says price increases for gasoline and food are making it tough to get by. Photo by James West.

Published Wednesday April 13th, 2011

Click here to read original article in the Daily Gleaner

Higher costs | Gas, food prices hurting people's bottom lines

Rising gas and food prices are hitting the people who can least afford them the hardest, say local officials and anti-poverty advocates.

Elizabeth Crawford-Thurber, executive director of the Fredericton Food Bank, said she's worried about higher food prices.

"Not only is food going up, everything is going up," she said recently.

While the food bank relies on donations, it sometimes buys food as well, she said, and the money it has won't go as far as it once did.

Higher prices are also affecting people who donate food, she said.

People have limited budgets, Crawford-Thurber said, and that means they'll have less to donate.

Lincoln resident Tammy Greer drives all over the Fredericton area in her capacity as a home-care worker, providing home care to elderly and disabled clients.

"This is a low-paid field," she said, and she's not reimbursed for travel in the city.

As a result, rising gas prices are hitting her in the pocketbook.

Greer said she considers herself to be among the area's working poor, and that's not how it's supposed to be.

In her job as a home-care worker, she also sees how rising prices are affecting her clients, she said.

"It's impacting them from a dietary perspective," she said, noting that quality, healthy food items are more expensive.

"The processed stuff is cheaper."

Governments need to step up to address the problem, Greer said.

She said governments, by failing to support health care and education better, are passing their financial responsibilities onto regular citizens.

As a result, they aren't as able to handle the impact of those higher prices, she said.

Food and oil prices are rising worldwide, and on a local level, it could soon leave people who once had to choose between heating their homes and feeding themselves with no choice at all, said Dan Weston, co-ordinator of the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization.

Instability and incidents all over the globe are impacting our food and gas prices, he said, and all levels of government need to do a better job of addressing these problems.

"You have to develop some kind of core economy," he said.

"We have to be able to protect ourselves, and our governments are not doing that."

Rising prices are also going to drive more people below the poverty line, Weston said.

These problems are snowballing, he said, and political leaders don't seem to be coming up with any solutions.

The RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index for March indicates that higher gas and food prices are hitting Atlantic Canadian consumers in a big way.

RBC reports that almost half (49 per cent) of those surveyed report that increased costs are having a significant impact on their budgets.

Atlantic Canadians are also among the most likely (43 per cent) to focus on paying off as much debt as they can over the next year, while 30 per cent plan to spend less, 16 per cent intend to save or invest more and 25 per cent plan to do all three of these things, an RBC news release stated.

"We're seeing that Atlantic Canadians are strongly focused on managing debt, while also setting money aside for future needs," said Kim Mason, regional RBC president for the Atlantic provinces.