“Typically, about $6 to $7 million dollars is what we would spend on food. This year we’re going to spend more than $16 million. So we need to purchase more food and right now the cost of that food is more. It’s not only more food, but it’s more expensive.”
Food banks needed help in 2020 when cities shut down, forcing people out of work or cutting their hours.
COVID is over but food banks remain busy thanks to inflation. The Wall Street Journal spoke to Detroit’s Forgotten Harvest:
Forgotten Harvest, which serves the metro Detroit area, said demand increased 25% to 45% since December in different areas it serves. In March alone, demand rose 30% compared with the previous month.
Christopher Ivey, a spokesman for the food rescue, says metro Detroit is at the front of the bell curve, experiencing economic ripples before they hit other parts of the U.S.
“The need is growing quickly, as gas prices are continuing to rise,” he said. “As you know, there are shortages in the grocery store and the costs of the commodity goods are going up and up and up,” he said, adding that the organization is challenged by the increased demand but is still able to fulfill the needs of the public.
March saw food higher by 10% from the year before. Restaurants are charging 6.9% more for food than in March 2021.
Feeding America discovered “that around 85% of its food banks saw demand for food assistance increase or stay the same in February compared with the previous month.”
Feeding America has 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries. The 85% is “a 20% increase from the previous survey in January.”
Inflation also makes it hard for the food banks to bring in more food:
“We have had to work harder to secure the food needed to support the community,” said Tim Fetsch, the chief operating officer of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, which began in 1975 and provides food for nearly 400,000 people each year.
Mr. Fetsch said the pandemic and current economic climate have significantly affected the organization’s supply chain because of increased food costs, rising transportation costs and the limited availability of food.
The food bank has traditionally relied heavily on retail partnerships for donations. But those retailers are experiencing the same supply-chain issues and, in turn, have reduced the amount of food they donate, Mr. Fetsch said.
A quick “food bank” Google search brings up numerous results of food banks across the country pleading for help.
Julie Yurko, president and CEO of Northern Food Bank, has seen a 40% in requests for assistance:
“Yesterday we spoke to a neighbor who goes to our Roselle food pantry,” Yurko said. “She’s a single mom, and she’s trying to take care of her kids. And she said, ‘I have started coming to this food pantry because of inflation. Because the cost of buying food and gas has gotten so high, it’s even more challenging for me to take care of my kids.’”
She says a decline in food donations as well as in food from the federal government is a big reason why they’re purchasing more groceries than ever before.
“Typically, about $6 to $7 million dollars is what we would spend on food,” Yurko said. “This year we’re going to spend more than $16 million. So we need to purchase more food and right now the cost of that food is more. It’s not only more food, but it’s more expensive.”
The same inflation being seen across the country adds to the bottom line at the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
“Prior to the pandemic, when we were buying produce, we’d buy a pound of produce and it would cost us about 29 cents on average,” Yurko said. “Now we’re paying about 40 cents per pound. The impact is great on the Food Bank.”
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