People helping people – the rising cost of food and House of Friendship


Many of us at House of Friendship are starting to wonder how rising food prices will impact the number of demands being made by the people we serve, or how many new people will need to start using any one of our programs for support. Currently many people don’t have a lot of money for the essential groceries after paying for things like shelter and clothing. Thus as food prices continue to rise it’s likely that the supper tables and pantries of low or fixed income households will suffer the most. So on that note, and as I mentioned in my introductory post in this series, I want to take some time to share the thoughts of John Neufeld (our Executive Director) and Tony Bender (Community Services Director) on this developing issue.

John Neufeld

John had an interesting approach to answering how rising food prices may impact House of Friendship. Overall House of Friendship provides a wide variety of programs so we encounter a wide variety of requests and various people needing support. According to John, “the role of House of Friendship is to listen to the needs of our community and then respond. Those needs may be a result of increasing food costs, lack of housing, immigration challenges, increased mental health and addiction issues, or a host of other factors. House of Friendship responds by bringing awareness to our community of the challenges our neighbours are encountering and then helps mobilize the community to respond collectively. We are fortunate to be in a region that has a history of responding with compassion and leadership. House of Friendship believes strongly that there is no “them,” there is only “us.” We are all part of the same community and one person’s loss diminishes all of us.”  This is the basic philosophy that we’ve been trying to operate under since House of Friendship was established back in 1939, and all of us are guided by it as we go about dealing with the many situations that people experience within our community.

In the near future rising food prices may contribute significantly the overall need that House of Friendship is responding to in a variety of ways. Providing emergency or Christmas food hampers may be one of our most common responses to this need, which is what Tony is very familiar with, as he’s been with House of Friendship for over thirty years.

Tony Bender - Director of Community Services at House of Friendship

In Tony’s opinion, “rising food costs will have little to no impact on House of Friendship, at least for this year. Increasing prices will be a more gradual impact that we’ll deal with as the years go on, as prices have been rising for a few years now.”  This could be one explanation as to why our emergency and Christmas food hamper programs have experienced a stronger demand for service over the last two years.

Although the demand for Christmas hampers increased in 2010 compared to 2009; while emergency food assistance requests declined. This is an interesting trend in our history as our patterns typically follow one another. Tony believes that there are a number of possible reasons for this anomaly, besides rising food prices though. Nevertheless the impact of rising food prices is not off the table as an influential factor to a potential increase in demand for our services.

This year we’re anticipating that even though food prices are rising, we are not likely to going to experience a stronger demand than we saw in 2009 or 2010. What we are anticipating is helping some of our current patrons more, and likely seeing a few new faces. Really it’ll be interesting either way to see how things play out because we can’t predict the future.

Though our program is aware of these rising challenges to many families, there are only a handful of things we can do if prices start to rise a lot and have a real impact on people’s ability to keep their budgets in order. Many of our programs rely significantly on donations, but thankfully there are a lot of people in the community who are able to meet their needs and reach out by donating food and other items to those in need. However as food prices rise, it’s possible that we may receive less food because people may not be able to give anymore, or as much as before. Also many grocery stores may order less to prevent waste and preserve their income. This is where the support of other agencies and the local community becomes critical to our continual ability to serve those in need.

But as we’ve seen in the past through various recessions and other economic hardships, we are a fortunate agency for a few reasons:

  • Many people continue to submit requests to volunteer with all of our programs which helps us get our work done with fewer staff
  • We receive a tremendous amount of support from local faith groups through food drives and helping out with special events.
  • Numerous local farmers donate the some of the fruits of their labour (and fields) on a regular basis.
  • We are located in an expanding community, which means that as more businesses move in, we have more potential donors to help support those in need within the community.

Overall things look goof for House of Friendship as we move into the future and deal with what rising food prices may bring, but we’ll still need your support. You can do that by volunteering; donating food or other essential non-food items; or simply by staying up-to-date on current events. Because without your support our programs wouldn’t be able to make a difference to the lives of so many people in need.

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