Produce Pantry Eases Burden of Skyrocketing Food Prices

two women holding pantry of food
by The Salvation Army in Canada

Every Monday for the past two months, Major Carolyn Hale notices a line of people out her office window at The Salvation Army Castledowns Church in Edmonton, Alberta. A popular new program, Produce Pantry, opens at 1 p.m. but the line usually starts by 10 a.m.

In the church gym, tables are laid out full of fresh fruit, veggies, bread, salads, spices, condiments, and sometimes meat. The first day they offered the program, they gave away food for 60 families. Two months later, that number reached 100 families. On this day, they served 120 families – 573 people in total.

Castledowns has operated their regular food hamper program Tuesdays and Thursdays, but during the lockdown, Major Carolyn added a third day on Fridays to accommodate the increased demand. Now, they’ve added Mondays for the Produce Pantry – and the numbers keep increasing. Inflation is hitting everyone hard, and high food prices are impacting those already struggling to meet basic needs for their families.

“Fruit is definitely the number one thing people go to first, and that table is usually empty in the first 15 minutes after we open,” says Major Carolyn, pointing to the selection of fresh fruit. “We don’t usually get as much fruit as we do veggies so it goes pretty fast.” High prices mean hard decisions when it comes to buying groceries, so for some this is their only option for fresh fruit and produce.

Edna Turner knows this reality well. She was first in line today at 9 a.m. to help feed her family of five.

“My husband is a cancer survivor, so it is important he eats healthy, and food prices are just so high,” says Edna. “Sometimes we have to choose between groceries and gas money. I am so very grateful for what The Salvation Army is doing, because I don’t know what we would do.”

Edna chooses some fresh produce to help feed her family this week from Castledowns’ new Produce PantryEdna comes to the Produce Pantry to choose healthy, fresh food to help feed her family this week

Learning about the program online, Edna added that this is the first time she has come to The Salvation Army, but she knew they would help.

“The Salvation Army, they treat us with respect, and the staff are so wonderful – especially Sarah, right to my heart.” says Edna, with her hand on her chest, holding back tears.

Carolyn explains that The Salvation Army receives food from grocery stores and businesses like Costco and Hello Fresh and distributes it to their units across the city weekly, including Castledowns Church. They then include it in their free food programs to help as many people as possible.

“People are very grateful that we can offer this to them for free,” says Major Carolyn. “Many were going without because they just couldn’t afford it.”