the food inflation conundrum

Food prices jumped 12% year on year in October, even faster than headline inflation, which reached 6.2%, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee) . Gold, ” the food budget is the adjustment variable when bills and the price of other constrained expenses increase”, emphasizes Laurence Champier, Director of Food Banks, the leading aid network in the sector. Associations and institutions providing food aid and collective catering find themselves in the front line, to meet growing demand, while they themselves suffer from rising prices.

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  • The difficult equation of food aid

Les Restos du Cœur, which are launching their 38e campaign, sound the general mobilization. “The Covid crisis and the inflationary crisis are cumulative: since April, the number of people received in our centers has increased by 12%, and those we already knew are even poorer than before. We have never seen such a strong and rapid deterioration”, alerts the president of the association, Patrice Douret. Same observation on the side of Food Banks, which provide food to 5,700 associations and social action centers. “Some people talk about a tsunami, but in reality, the needs rise with each crisis, without coming down again”notes their director, Laurence Champier.

The challenge is twofold: respond to the increase in the number of people received – there are 3.6 million if we combine Restaurants and Food Banks – and the increase in their needs; meet the poor inhabitants of “white areas”, with no distribution outlets, especially since the cost of petrol discourages these people from moving around. The associations have thus intensified all of their distributions, while creating itinerant centres. But they fear a “scissor effect”where the increase in their expenditure would be accompanied by a fall in their income.

Actors in the sector have opened integration projects which cultivate fruit and vegetables, developed donations in kind from farmers and the agri-food industry. But they are buying a growing share of foodstuffs at now higher prices.

They also have to assume the additional costs of energy – not fully compensated by the State: food banks thus account for 123,000 m2 warehouses equipped with energy-intensive cold rooms, and nearly 500 trucks. As for the receipts, they largely depend on the donations that will be collected. “We have a lot of modest donors. Can they continue to support us? », asks Patrice Douret. “Will they go to the supermarket for the national food bank collection, which begins on Friday? asks Laurence Champier. The network renewed, an online collection launched during the health crisis.

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