Nation's food banks struggling with inflation and demand

Nov 19, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4714
Inflation has come to our holiday table as the price of this year’s Thanksgiving meal for ten is up 14 percent to $53.31. 
Any increase in the price of food is extended beyond the holidays. This is adding to challenges for those already struggling to make ends meet. 
Peter Tubbs reports on the inflation impact on those helping fill gaps. 
 
Katie Fitzgerald, Feeding America, president and COO: "The increase in food prices is a real challenge for meeting the needs of people who are struggling to put food on the table across the country. Our food banks are seeing prices that are two to three times what they were just nine months ago."
 
The same inflation that is rippling across the economy is lowering the ability of the nation’s food banks to serve the nation’s hungry.
Katie Fitzgerald, Feeding America, president and COO: "Since the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a sudden and intense surge in demand. Last year in 2020. We estimate that 60 million - six zero - million people accessed the charitable food system in this country."
 
Food banks that expanded their operations to meet the pandemic induced spike in demand are now facing price spikes across their food menu. 
The COVID-19 driven shocks to the labor market have slung millions of households into food insecurity for the first time. Banks from Iowa to Texas held outdoor drive up events to serve the hungry. While Shiloh Mercy House in Oakland is down from the peak of 1,100 families it was feeding each week during the height of the pandemic, 300 families still line up each Wednesday.
Jason Bautista, events manager, Shiloh Mercy House: "Our clients they're sharing with us that the rising food costs is something that is a huge stressor right now for them. It's something that they just can't afford."
 
Inflation in the food sector means families utilizing food banks may see smaller portions and fewer protein options, especially among beef, pork, chicken and peanut butter.
Ita Espinoza, food pantry client: "I come here because I need food for my family. You know why? Because the stores are very expensive - the food - and my money is not enough."
 
Delays in global supply chains are keeping canned goods from Asia, like fruit cocktail and pears, abroad due to a lack of shipping containers.
Planning around delays means buying further into the future, or making larger purchases than normal.
Wilken Louie, associate director of supply chain, Alameda County Community Food Bank: "The secret for us is really staying ahead of the pipeline. I used to commit to a purchase six weeks in advance of when it's actually needed, and now I've extended that that lead time to perhaps eight to 10 weeks."
 
Analysts believe the current inflation rate will continue well into 2022, meaning food banks will need to keep adjusting their budgets for many months ahead.
For Market to Market, I’m Peter Tubbs
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