(Montreal) The pressure is strong on the pantry of food banks, which have never had so many mouths to feed. Without an additional boost from Quebec, they fear having to make difficult choices as early as April.

Soaring food inflation is putting a double strain on food bank operations. The food they distribute costs more at a time when more households need help.

Before the pandemic, nearly 500,000 people visited a Quebec food bank each month. In 2022, this figure jumped to 671,000, according to the latest HungerCount, which is based on data collected in March 2022.

Food Banks Executive Director Martin Munger expects traffic to be even higher this year as the association prepares for the 2023 edition of the report. “We don’t have the data yet, but what the members on the ground are telling us is that it has been increasing since then,” he explains. There are more people who frequent Les Moissons. There are new faces coming in every week. »

The situation of the most vulnerable households is “appalling” while traffic at Moisson Quebec has doubled since the pandemic, notes its general manager, Élaine Côté. “I can tell you that the year 2023 will be the most difficult that we have had in our 35 years of existence. The needs are immense. It’s disproportionate to the tools we have. »

Without government assistance, Moisson Québec will not be able to meet all of the demand within a few weeks, warns Ms. Côté. “We’re going to have to stop services, for sure. We won’t have a choice. We cannot respond to 70,000 different people per month with the financial means we have. »

Food inflation also has repercussions for donors, notes the general manager of Moisson Kamouraska, Mireille Lizotte. “It’s not that they aren’t generous, but the people, they do what they can. […] [Inflation] really hits the middle class. »

Grocers, who are major donors, are also managing their inventory more tightly amid rising prices and supply chain disruption.

This rigorous management means that less food is recovered by Moisson Kamouraska. “More and more grocers are going to check their inventory, so we’re getting less of it,” says Lizotte. We get less meat. When the vegetables arrive at our house, they are really at the end of their life. The organization must therefore make more purchases to diversify its offer, she adds.

Help will be needed to help food banks foot the bill. Ms. Côté would like the government to adopt longer-term assistance to allow them to better plan their activities. December’s emergency aid was welcome, but it “brings enormous stress” because agencies don’t know what will happen next.

As the provincial budget that will be unveiled on March 21 approaches, Food Banks of Quebec is requesting one-time assistance of $24 million to support them in this exceptional context. The association also pleads for the recurrent funding of the organization to be increased by 5 million.

It is also calling for annual funding of $5 million for the next four years to invest in their infrastructure.

The amounts claimed remain modest compared to the nearly $2 billion that the tax cuts promised by the Legault government will cost. “We think that if the government can find two billion for tax cuts, they should be able to find 24 million to make sure people can feed themselves. »