US food banks struggle to feed hungry amid surging prices

OAKLAND (Calif.) -- U.S. food banks are now facing a new challenge: rising food prices and supply chain problems that have engulfed the country.

US food banks struggle to feed hungry amid surging prices

OAKLAND (Calif.) -- U.S. food banks are now facing a new challenge: rising food prices and supply chain problems that have engulfed the country.

Due to the higher prices and limited availability, some families might get smaller portions or substitutes for staples like peanut butter. This peanut butter costs almost twice as much as it did last year. Some food banks are worried that they won't have enough stuffing or cranberry sauce as the holidays approach.

"Food insecurity just gets worse when food prices rise," Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officers of Feeding America (a non-profit organization that coordinates efforts of over 200 food banks across the nation), said.

She said that food banks that were expanded to meet the unprecedented demand triggered by the pandemic will not be able absorb food costs that are now two to three times as high as they once were.

Lower inventory, increased labor costs and supply chain disruptions have all led to higher costs for charities that provide nutrition for millions of Americans. It is more costly to transport donated food because of rising transportation costs and bottlenecks at ports and factories making it difficult to obtain all types of goods.

Fitzgerald stated that if a food bank must swap for smaller cans of tuna or make substitutions to increase their funds, it is like adding an "insult to injury" for a family struggling with uncertainty.

The Alameda County Community Food Bank of Oakland spends $60,000 more per month in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. It is spending $1 million per month to distribute 4.5million pounds (2 million kg) of food due to increased demand. Michael Altfest, Oakland's director for community engagement, stated that this was in addition to the rising cost of food.

It spent a quarter of its income on 2.5 million pounds (1.2million kilograms) of food pre-pandemic.

Altfest stated that canned green beans and peaches are up almost 9%; canned tuna, frozen tilapia and frozen tuna are up more than 6%. A case of frozen 5-pound chickens for holiday table is up 13%. Dry oatmeal prices have risen 17%

For its weekly food distribution, hundreds gather outside an Oakland church on Wednesdays. Jason Bautista (the charity's event manager) said that Shiloh Mercy House provides food for 300 families each day, which is far less than the 1,100 families it fed during the pandemic. He still sees new people every week.

He said, "And a lot people are just saying that they can't afford to eat." "They have the money, but it's not enough to buy certain items.

Shiloh, a new community market that opened in May, is also available to families. While cartons of milk or eggs are kept in refrigerators, shelves contain sacks of hamburger buns or crusty baguettes.

Sonia Lujan Perez, 45, a Oakland resident, bought chicken, celery and onions bread, and potatoes to supplement her Thanksgiving dinner for her 3-year-old daughter, 18-year old son, and herself. California pays Melanie Lujan-Perez to care for her special needs daughter Melanie. However, the monthly rent is $2,200 and the high cost of milk citrus, chicken, and spinach are not enough.

She said that it was wonderful because she will be able to save money and added that Christmas is a difficult season for children's toys.

It is unclear how much other government aid will offset rising food costs, such as the expanded school lunch program Californians and increased benefits for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., found that most households will receive enough groceries benefits, but increased benefits of U.S. rural or urban counties.

Bryan Nichols is vice president of Sales for Transnational Foods Inc.. The company delivers to over 100 food banks affiliated with Feeding America. Bryan said that canned foods from Asia, such as fruit cocktail and pears, have been left behind overseas due to a shortage of shipping containers.

Although supply issues seem to be improving, prices are stabilizing. However, he expects that costs will remain high because so many people quit the shipping industry during the pandemic. "An average container from Asia before COVID would have cost around $4,000. He said that the same container costs about $18,000 today.

The CEO of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, Lynne Telford, says that the price for a truckload peanut butter (40,000 pounds, 18,100 kilograms) has risen 80% since June 2019, to $51,000 in August. The wholesale price of ground beef and mac and cheese has increased by 5% over the past year, while it is up 19% for mac and cheese. To make up for declining donations, they are spending more to buy food and have less choice.

She is worried about the upcoming holidays. One, the cost of buying a frozen turkey for donation has increased from $10 per bird to $15.

"The other problem is that we don't get enough holiday food like stuffing or cranberry sauce. Telford said that they have to supplement other types of food. His food bank distributed 25 million pounds (11.3million kilograms) of food last year and fed over 200,000 people.

Alameda County Community Food Bank claims it is ready for Thanksgiving with boxes of mashed potatoes and cans of cranberry among other items stored in the expanded warehouse. Wilken Louie, food resourcing director, ordered eight truckloads frozen 5-pound chickens - which equates to more than 60,000 birds - to give away and half-turkeys at no cost.

Martha Hasal is thankful for that.

As Hasal ate a lot of cauliflower and onions for the Bay Area American Indian Council, she said that "it's going be an expensive Thanksgiving." "They're not giving away turkey. They're giving the chicken to thank God.

Updated Date: 10 November 2021, 11:44

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