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Inflation has stretched food banks thin as they see increased pandemic demand

food prices
Posted at 11:41 AM, Dec 02, 2021

If you have gone to the grocery store recently, you have likely noticed the high jump in food prices from record inflation. It is forcing more people to food banks as they try to stretch their paychecks further and afford other necessities.

“It saves us a lot from having to buy certain things that we would get here so we can put that resource to something else, so it really helps a lot,” said Lana Lopes, one of the 46 million Americans that Feeding America estimates relies on food assistance.

Forty-six million: it is a number that has climbed during the pandemic, and one that has become more difficult to feed in recent months.

“Food Bank of the Rockies has had to triple our purchased food budget since 2019. So, we’re paying nearly $1 million a month to purchase food,” said Aditi Desai, spokeswoman for Food Bank of the Rockies, one of the hundreds of food banks nationwide battling the same inflation its clients are seeing.

Since November of last year, the price of bread has risen 8%, ground beef 15%, and pork by as much as 18%, according to Nielsen. The numbers might not seem like much, but when you consider the lowest-earning Americans spend 36% of their income on food—compared to only 8% among the highest-earning Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture— it can add up.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Marvin Green, a food bank recipient. “And I don’t eat the things I used to eat a lot of times. A lot of things I won’t buy because I can’t afford it.”

Green is a chef who was released from prison earlier this year, and he comes to food banks weekly, not because he cannot afford to feed himself, but because the higher prices have made it more difficult for him to afford other things as well.

Feeding America estimates 69% of food bank recipients must choose between spending money on food and utilities, 67% between food and transportation, and 57% between food and housing.

“I’ve really heard from community members that they can only stretch their paycheck so far,” said Desai. “We’re seeing more people who might be coming here because they’re trying to stretch their paycheck further, and so it really helps them, usually, in the final week of the month.”

More mouths to feed with fewer resources to feed them. To do it, food banks have changed where they source from, as well as the foods they offer so they can stretch their budgets as well.

“I’m blessed. I really am,” said Green. “I have no complaints, being able to come get food here, you know? I’m trying to make ends meet, but having things like this helps a lot.”