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‘We are out here today because of injustice. Injustice in food prices’

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One and a Half Bags Committee protest outside Hamilton MarketPlace, over increased food prices. Pictured- Fern Wade (front) and Ray Todd (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A small group of demonstrators yesterday launched a protest outside Hamilton’s Anglican Cathedral calling for action on food costs.

Fern Wade, the co-ordinator for the campaign group One and a Half Bags, said the protest was planned to continue until Friday. The group is also set to meet representatives of the island’s grocery stores to discuss the issue.

“We are out here because of injustice. Injustice in food prices,” she said.

“We are not only fighting for ourselves but we are fighting for the Bermuda community because we all consume food items every day. We all have to eat every day.”

Ms Wade added: “It is always about us and them. It’s time that it’s about we. We need them and they need us.”

She said the organisation was brought together in response to the increasing cost of groceries on the island.

According to the latest inflation figures, released last month, food inflation in October was just over 10 per cent.

“Going into the grocery stores I shop for my mother, who is a senior citizen. She can’t afford this and that so she eats the same things every day,” she said.

“It’s too expensive. Everything is expensive and it’s time that we looked at it.”

Ms Wade said that while she understood the problem was not only a local one, she argued the island’s small size should mean it was easier to address.

“We are thousands of people compared to millions of people. I’m sure we could do something. Nothing is impossible,” she said.

“It’s time that we work together. We have to work together. That’s the only way.”

She was doubtful that the Government’s Budget – set to be delivered on Friday – would provide much assistance.

“My hope isn’t really in Government, my hope is in God, but we will pray that something is done for us,” she said.

“We put the Government in, we pay them, but sometimes I think they might forget. They need to listen more to the people. We have ideas too. Let’s get together and talk about these things.”

Seth Stutzman, the MarketPlace group of stores president, said he appreciated the impact that the cost of food had on the public and that the business was working to keep costs down.

“We live here as well and we empathise with every single person that is dealing with and being impacted by this worldwide crisis,” he said. “The cost of food has gone up everywhere.

“I was reading this morning about the food prices in the US going up by 10 per cent. In the UK it is 13 or 14 per cent, so everyone is dealing with this.

“When you start adding things like shipping, customs and duty that all go into that, it’s a tough business and our teams fight every day to try to keep these costs down.”

Mr Stutzman said MarketPlace staff worked hard to find more affordable options for customers while working to limit the businesses expenses such as transitioning to LED lights.

“Everyone is talking about how expensive electricity is, but imagine trying to run a grocery store that operates with huge refrigeration and air conditioning. These are gigantic costs for grocery stores and when fuel service charges go up over 50 per cent we are going to feel it in stores.”

He added that the MarketPlace stores employed more than 400 people and offered wages starting at just over $24 per hour.

“People need to eat. They need to live here and we are among the highest paid retailers on the island,” Mr Stutzman said. “When people talk about a minimum wage, we say do it.”

A spokeswoman for Lindos said: “We always want to hear about our customers' concerns and, of course, support everyone’s right to protest peacefully.

“We empathise with the protesters and recognise the challenges that we're all facing as a result of unprecedented inflation being experienced worldwide.

“We also recognise that there are some who are impacted more than others and we urge them to reach out to the relevant government agencies who are much better equipped to provide assistance.”

The spokeswoman added that the business did what it could to offer deals to help offset rising cost and encouraged customers to make use of the almost 1,000 items on sale every month.

“In addition, we hold two discount days a week – on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – and have recently opened our new bulk store, Lindo's Next Level, where many items can be bought steeply discounted,” she said.

One and a Half Bags Committee protest outside Hamilton MarketPlace, over increased food prices. Pictured- Ray Todd (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 15, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated February 15, 2023 at 9:05 am)

‘We are out here today because of injustice. Injustice in food prices’

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