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Federal budget to include grocery rebate for lower-income Canadians

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The 2023 federal budget will include a one-time "grocery rebate" for lower-income Canadians, CTV News has confirmed.

It comes as many Calgarians struggle with the rising cost of food.

"Everything's just been going up and up and up," said Nadia Aube.

"Milk, eggs, bread, I mean, all those things. Fruits, vegetables, anything fresh is crazy."

Jodi Fournier, another Calgarian, agrees and says it's becoming more difficult to shop for the essentials.

"Before this, I could spend $250 for a family of four and now, there's three of us and it was $400 today," she said.

According to sources, the "grocery rebate" will be unveiled in Tuesday's federal budget and will help nearly 11 million low-income Canadians.

The measure would see eligible couples with two children get a one-time payment of up to $467.

An eligible senior would get a payment of $225.

An eligible single person would get $234.

"I'm fortunate that I can afford to buy my groceries, but other people can't," Fournier said.

The Calgary Food Bank says the government money will only go so far.

"Food insecurity, hunger is a bigger problem than a one-time payment can fix," said Betty Jo Kaiser, communications co-ordinator.

The food bank has seen a sharp increase in demand over the past couple of months, but it's also receiving fewer donations.

"Unfortunately, because of the cost of groceries, people just aren't able to give as much," Kaiser said.

As a result, she says they're having to substitute some of the staple items typically included in their emergency food hampers.

"Whatever is donated, we're able to push out and if people aren't able to donate, you know, a couple packages of pasta, then that's two less packages of pasta that's going out to people that are food insecure," she said.

Kaiser says the items most needed right now at the food bank are baby formula, peanut butter, canned beans, granola bars, apple sauce and fruit cups.

According to Statistics Canada's latest inflation report, food prices rose 10.6 per cent in February compared to a year ago.

That's more than double the rate of inflation of 5.2 per cent.

The government's plan will be allocated through the GST rebate system, essentially replicating the recent GST rebate increase.

It's also expected that the money won't actually have to be spent on groceries.

Sylvia Kong, a home economist, says people can use that to their advantage.

"They can go in and repair that freezer or repair that microwave or buy the new cooking pan that's not been working properly," Kong said.

"Those are ways that we're going to get people to be cooking at home."

Kong says people can stretch their dollar by making a list and sticking to it, checking their pantry and freezer to avoid buying duplicates, and taking advantage of bargains, like discounted bread and fruit, when they're available.

She also recommends people opt for frozen fruit and vegetables when possible to save money and reduce food waste at the same time.

"I really discourage people from buying expensive compost. Buy food that you're going to eat first-in, first-out," Kong said. 

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