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Rising food prices | A major challenge for Fondation Olo



There is a lot of talk about soaring food prices for consumers doing their grocery shopping. This increase also affects the Olo Foundation, which provides (and pays for!) basic foods given to pregnant women. This expenditure has increased by 23% compared to what it was before the pandemic. And this despite a drop in demand.

Fondation Olo offers concrete nutritional assistance to expectant mothers through coupons that allow them to obtain frozen milk, eggs and vegetables. Participants can redeem their coupons at pharmacies, grocery stores and convenience stores across Quebec.

Between 2019 and 2022, there was a 9% drop in requests.

How can this decrease in Olo follow-ups be explained?

The pandemic has put a brake on requests, explains Élise Boyer, director general of the organization.

In 2019, 7,000 to 8,000 Quebec women began an Olo follow-up every year. During the first waves of COVID-19, this number dropped, because services were partially closed and people were isolated, explains the director.

This is now picking up again and is putting enormous pressure on Olo’s operating budget.

The economic situation, because of inflation, housing and groceries that are too expensive, means that more pregnant women find themselves in a precarious economic situation.

Élise Boyer, General Manager of Olo

Other factors also explain this marked increase in requests, including the popularity of the new provincial Pregnancy Notification program, which directs pregnant women to services like Olo. A new clientele among asylum seekers is also increasing demand.

However, funding has remained stable.

“We need our donors, we need the government, both provincial and federal,” says Élise Boyer. All of our allies must understand the extent to which we are faced with a major challenge. The number of families to help is greater, the cost to do so is greater. »

Olo expects to catch up to pre-pandemic volumes later this year. The increase in costs directly linked to the increase in the price of food will be even higher.

This year will be in deficit at Olo, which is normally closer to the point of equilibrium.

“We are in our budget exercise for next year and it will hurt, warns Élise Boyer. This is why we are sending a very clear message to the Government of Quebec, we need a boost for food. »

Postnatal offer

The rise in food prices also put on ice a project dear to Olo, that of continuing to help during the child’s first years.

We no longer want childbirth to mean the end of coupons. They are used, among other things, to support the adoption of healthy eating habits for the family. We want there to be continuity.

Elise Boyer

Olo believes that by already being in contact with the mothers and having developed a relationship of trust, the organization is well placed to continue the helping relationship.

The situation is even more pressing in an inflationary context. Last fall, Fondation Olo conducted an internal study to come to this sad conclusion: 76% of pregnant women who received coupons at the time used part of the food to feed the family, rather than themselves.

“It’s extremely heartbreaking,” says Élise Boyer. Olo will never be a food assistance measure. But our certainty is that what happens in the first 1000 days of life has an enormous impact on physical health, development, educational success. »

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