Food pantries are struggling to remain open as inflation drives increased demand for food distribution and raises operating costs, the Associated Press reported.
The record inflation seen in recent months has led massive numbers of people across the country to seek out food banks rather than brave sticker shock at the grocery store. Officials at multiple food distribution organizations told the AP they've been swamped by the demand for food.
"In the last few months, with this increase in inflationary pressures, we're seeing 95 percent of our 200 member food banks saying that they have seen either leveling or an increase in need," Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, a national food bank network, told the AP.
At one church food pantry in Washington state, demand for food rose 40 percent between December and March, Eric Williams, an official with a local food bank supplier, told the AP. Food banks and suppliers are also struggling with the rising cost of food, which is up 9.4 percent from last year, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report. Williams said the price his organization pays per pound of produce has nearly doubled in a year.
Inflation has also forced some food pantry partners of Feeding America either to shut down or provide less food.
"Our network emphasizes access and equity," Babineaux-Fontenot told the AP. "So we are working extra hard to reach people who have the deepest food insecurity rates. Well, how far out can we go when gas prices are high?"
Food pantries are also having to make up for a decrease in donations.
"Compared to last year at this time, we're about 50 percent down in what we have received in the past in federal food donations and then about 20 percent down from food drives in our collection of food at the grocery stores," the executive director of an Ohio food bank network told the AP. "All of that combined is truly having an impact on our budget because we're needing to purchase more food outright."