Grocery prices described as ‘unaffordable’
Bermuda's uniformly high grocery prices are placing overwhelming strain on lower income residents, community leaders have warned.
Nesi Armstrong, founder of Facebook donation group Free Food Bermuda, said that she had “an ever-growing list” of families in need, owing to people being priced out of supermarket shopping.
“Every year, more people are coming forward,” she said, criticising those who have failed to drop their prices to an affordable level.
“I understand that the prices are greater in the Bermudian market because of importation costs, but they do have more room to go down,” she said.
“Not everyone can afford to shop in bulk. They just want to go into the grocery store and buy general things like fresh produce.”
Major Frank Pittman, divisional commander of The Salvation Army, said that the lack of options available for grocery shopping on the island placed customers in a bind.
“Bermuda has a high cost of living, and that causes a problem for people struggling with a low income, as they don't have options like Wal-Mart,” he said.
“There's not enough competition to drive the market. The wealthy can afford it, but the poor people get caught because they have no ways and means of being able to cope with the prices.
“Some of them have to make a choice — do they buy food for their family or do they pay the utility bill?”
Major Pittman added that The Salvation Army's feeding programme, offering free hot meals five days a week on North Street, now welcomed more people than ever before.
This increase has caused the programme to run at a deficit of $10,000, which in turn has contributed to a shortfall in The Salvation Army's coffers.
“It has been growing to the point where we now get 80 to 100 people a day,” he said.
“It used to be mostly homeless men. Now some of the people we see have homes, they just can't afford food, so they come to us for their evening meal.”
In Britain, the economic malaise of recent years has led to the boom of low-cost supermarkets.
Aldi and Lidl continue to make enormous inroads — doubling their market share since 2012, while the nation's traditional supermarkets have floundered.
Martha Dismont, executive director at community charity Family Centre, said that the demand existed for Bermuda to introduce a budget supermarket.
“Families are struggling with their basic needs,” she said.
“The conditions in this community warrant us to go places we haven't gone before.”
Mrs Dismont suggested that a low-budget supermarket in Bermuda could sustain itself by specialising in locally sourced produce such as fruit, vegetables and fish.
“It would certainly would help families afford their basic food needs,” she said.
On Thursday, The Royal Gazette conducted a price comparison check at four major supermarket branches — The MarketPlace, Miles Market, Supermart and Lindo's — as well as bulk discount stores Price Rite and Hunt's.
• For graphics that display the price comparisons, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”.