Concerns and worries are mounting for Prince Rupert seniors over the lack of food and shortages of product availability during seniors shopping hours at the local grocery stores, especially at the end of the month when home pantries are empty and income comes in just once a month.
Brian Johnson is a senior in P.R. who said he went to the major grocery stores in town the last week of March, with his monthly grocery list and was able to take home only a bag of potatoes and a bunch of bananas, due the lack of staples available. He shopped during the allocated time for seniors which is between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
“There was no coffee, the meat department was skeletal and only high end expensive cheeses were available, “Johnson said,”There was very little food that seniors eat.”
Johnson said when he asked the stores about the low stock, he was told customers are still panic shopping, so supplies are low.
Prince Rupert Save-on-Foods, store manager, Marcus Ramsey said the biggest challenges in Prince Rupert are supply issues with the key essentials like toilet paper, sanitizers, flour, sugar, canola/vegetable oil, rice, bagged potatoes, ground beef and pork.
“The hardest hit has been toilet paper as our suppliers are working hard to produce enough to meet demand and that holds true with a lot of these key essentials. We have been able to get our shelves restocked every night, but of course we still need those key commodities – and this is slowly getting better and better, ” Ramsey said.
Those that are retired and with disabilities can not attend the grocery stores every day, Johnson said. He hasn’t seen food shortages like this in the city since 2007 when the Skeena River flooded and the roads were closed. That was a different matter he said, because the food supply trucks were not getting through. Johnson has personally seen trucks arriving at Safeway, Save-on-Foods and Walmart, so doesn’t believe the shortages stem from supply issues.
“I would like to see more responsibility in shopping to ensure everyone has what they need to survive,” Johnson said, “Retired people and those who receive social safety nets find it difficult. It is difficult for those people to go out and shop.”
Also a concern for seniors is the actual shopping hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., said Sheila Mc Donald, Prince Rupert Seniors Centre coordinator and also coordinator for the ‘Better at Home’ program which is designed to meet senior citizens needs to be able to remain independent in their own homes.
“I know the Better at Home clients, and some others don’t have a lot of financial resources to keep going and going and going (to the grocery stores) to see. So we have been trying to figure out things that we can do to help them out with some food,” McDonald said.
McDonald questioned why the shopping hours must be so early, as some stores do have later seniors shopping hours.
“Seniors hour is way too early. All of the seniors do not get up at 7am. Many, many, many, of them do not get up at that hour, and the low income cliental with not many resources definitely do not get up at 7 in the morning.”
According to census data provided by Statistics Canada there are 4290 senior citizens in Prince Rupert between the ages of 60 and 99 years, as of 2016.
McDonald suggests it may be a good idea to stagger the seniors hours, or alternate hours on different days, so more of the seniors population can utilize the benefit of seniors shopping.
“Save-On-Food’s decision to open early at 7 a.m. has been met with appreciation and delight from those most at risk that I’ve personally spoken with. Most of our customers understand the situation, but obviously the frustration is still very evident for all of us,” Ramsey said.
“Here at our Prince Rupert Save-On-Foods, we have actively strived to ration key commodities for the ‘most at risk’ to ensure they receive something, but again, that depends on what actually comes into the building,” Ramsey said.
“The sun always shines in P.R because of people are resilient, but right now there is a dark cloud over us because of a few people,” Johnson said.
The Northern View also reached out to Safeway for comment, however communication was not returned.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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