Food Banks Are Failing to Meet Demand Due to High Inflation!

Kendall Nunamaker and her five-person family in Kennewick, Washington, were presented with hard math this month: how to pay for petrol, groceries, and the mortgage while inflation drove up costs.

The Nunamakers, like many other working families, are dealing with the 8.3 per cent increase in the consumer price index in April, according to the Labor Department, which is down somewhat from the March figure, which was the highest year-over-year increase since 1981.

The national average gas price hit a new high of $4.40 per gallon on Wednesday. And worldwide food costs are rising as a result of supply chain challenges and shortages created by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Food banks around the country say the current economic climate is increasing demand for their assistance at a time when labour and distribution costs are rising and donations are falling.

President Joe Biden said this week that a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health will be held in September for the first time since 1969.

Food insecurity came as a shock to many families, including the Nunamakers.

“There’s no justification for us to be struggling so much as a married and a family,” Nunamaker added. “We make a respectable living.”

Her husband, Nick, has a full-time union job as a paratransit driver for $27 an hour and she works three days a week at a home décor business for $15.25 an hour.

Even though their two youngest children are eligible for a state feeding programme for young children, they spent $360 on groceries last week.

Those groceries didn’t go far enough to feed everyone due to rising prices. Nunamaker was unsure how she would stretch their upcoming paychecks to satisfy those obligations and their mortgage this month because the family still needed money to pay other household bills.

To close the gap in the past, the family sold off valuables like VR headsets and rifles.

Food Banks Are Failing to Meet Demand Due to High Inflation

“At some time, we won’t have anything because we’ll have sold everything,” Nunamaker remarked.

Nunamaker and her husband made their first visits to two local food banks last week.

According to Feeding America, the pandemic drove nearly 60 million Americans to seek assistance for food insecurity. Demand for food banks recovered to normal levels at the end of 2021, as hiring increased. However, the relief was fleeting.

“We’re seeing 95 per cent

of our 200 member food banks indicate they’ve experienced either a levelling or an increase in demand in the last several months, with this increase in inflationary pressures,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America.

According to Eric Williams, director of community partnerships at Second Harvest, an organisation that works to supply local pantries with food, the number of clients seeking food assistance at a church pantry in Nunamaker’s neighbourhood along the Columbia River increased by 40% between December and March.

He explained that his company has to do more with less because its suppliers are also facing cost rises. According to Williams, the price Second Harvest pays for donated produce has grown from approximately 6 cents per pound a year ago to around 10 or 11 cents per pound presently.

Because of diminishing donations and rising costs for receiving and transporting food, some of Feeding America’s food pantry partners have closed. Others, although having larger demand, have less food on their shelves.

“Access and equity are important to us,” Babineaux-Fontenot remarked. “As a result, we’re working particularly hard to reach those with the highest levels of food insecurity.”

So, when petrol prices are high, how far can we go? Race and location are key determinants of whether or not you would be food insecure and how deeply you will be food insecure, according to studies.”

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A food bank that serves three counties in Ohio, also known as Second Harvest, is facing a reduction in the amount of food it can distribute due to inflation and a loss in aid.

“Compared to last year at this time, we’re about 50% lower in government food donations and about 20% lower in food drives in our grocery store collection,” Executive Director Tyra Jackson said.

“All of this is having a significant impact on our budget because we’re having to buy more food outright.”

Families’ difficulties are exacerbated by the fact that government subsidies like food stamps and unemployment insurance, which were raised during the pandemic, have ceased or may cease soon.

Babineaux-Fontenot stated, “Our work is always crucial.” “With all of these headwinds, it’s becoming increasingly important.”

Williams, of Spokane, thanked the donors and volunteers who help keep his group functioning, some of whom worked over 100 hours last year.

When assisting with distributions at a mobile food bank, he stated it can be challenging to experience firsthand the degree of food insecurity in his town.

“When you see the need, it’s like, ‘Oh God, oh my God,'” Williams added. “But then, as you deliver someone a box of food and they drive away, they say, ‘Yeah, we were able to help,’ which is both heartbreaking and gratifying.”

Nunamaker said she hasn’t mentioned her family’s troubles with her three children, ages 2, 4, and 7, or her network of friends and relatives because it bothers her so much. Last week, she added, the food banks helped her family.

“People should understand that having to go to a food bank or seeking assistance does not make you any less of a parent or a person,” she said. “Because everyone requires assistance at times.”

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