Both Langley food banks say they’ve received a small number of the $25 bread price fixing gift cards issued in the wake of revelations that several major supermarket chains were involved in a scheme to keep the price of bread high.
The cards were issued by the Loblaw chain, which admits involvement in the scheme, and in a different form by the B.C. based Save-On-Foods chain, which says it was not a participant.
Save-On was offering a $25 credit on its store loyalty cards and suggesting the amount could be donated to food banks.
About “half-a-dozen” of the $25 cards so far have been donated to the Langley Food Bank, said office administrator Bonnie Mair.
“It’s very useful to us,” Mair said, because the cards can be used to purchase items that are usually not donated, like baby food and diapers.
She added the cards need to be activated by donors before they are dropped off.
The Sources Food Bank said it has seen no more than a handful of card donations, but “anything that can help clients is fine with us” said manager Jaye Murray.
Murray noted the Save-On credits would be funnelled through Food Banks BC to local food banks if people request at the till.
The bread price-fixing scheme was revealed in December.
George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Companies Ltd. admitted to participating in the scheme for over a decade.
They said the price-fixing included other major grocery retailers and another bread wholesaler.
Shortly after Loblaw announced a gift card initiative, Save-On-Food issued a statement that said the chain “had no knowledge of, nor were we involved in, this illegal activity” but was offering customers a $25 credit on loyalty cards anyway.
“… in keeping with our commitment to supporting those less fortunate, we’ll be giving you the option to easily re-direct this $25 to your local food bank when you get to the store,” the statement said.
The Langley-based Otter Co-Op was not involved in the scheme, said Chief Executive Officer Jack Nicholson, who issued a letter to co-op members and the media “to set the record straight, and ensure our member/owners and guests understand that Otter Co-op is rooted in the community, is a different kind of business, and we stand behind our values of integrity, community and excellence.
Nicholson said Otter has no plans to hand out gift cards as it “has not and will not participate in any price fixing.”
After the card programs were announced, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) issued a statement that said they will accept the cards, but donors would be better advised to use the cards for themselves and donate $25 cash because the gift cards must be redeemed in-store at retail prices, whereas the food bank can get better rates buying wholesale.