Calgary families see roughly $220 added to monthly grocery bill; CBC launches new focus on food cost

CBC's story about global factors pushing up the cost of food will likely remain for a while, say experts

1 November 2021

About six months ago, grocery prices took off and now a typical family of four can expect to be paying $220 more each month for healthy food compared to last year. 

That's according to Vibrant Communities Calgary, which calculates costs in the city as part of its annual living wage report.

It released that report Monday. Researchers found prices in many areas increased with inflation, but food prices increased faster. Now a family with two adults and two kids can expect to spend nearly $1,200 a month to ensure a full fridge and kitchen cupboards.

"It's surprising. We found the food category in particular jumped up," said Lee Stevens, a researcher with Vibrant Communities Calgary.

She used a standard list of food items set by Alberta Health Services to make the calculations, what a typical family of four would eat to stay healthy. Adding in other expenses, total household costs for a modest standard of living came out at $81,300 annually for 2021.

Crop loss plays a role

Vibrant Communities executive director Meaghon Reid says several factors are driving up food prices. First, there's the inflation and supply chain issues that have impacted many different parts of the economy.

Then locally, the hot and dry summer caused crop loss. That decreased the supply of cereals and pulses, both to sell directly to consumers and to feed livestock. 

"That definitely drives the cost of food up," Reid said. "Meat in Alberta has gone up exponentially and a lot of consumers are now having to make trade-offs in terms of how much meat they consume in a week."

"The other thing to note," she said, "is that those factors aren't one-time factors. Climate change, supply chains, changes in the workforce as well, they are not likely to be a one-time occurrence. And so the price of food is going to keep increasing."

Read the full story here.