Inflation driving higher demand for food bank services


(NewsNation) — Food banks across the country are seeing increased demand amid record inflation that has sent prices for groceries including milk, bread and eggs soaring over the last year.

In Arizona, the Phoenix food bank’s main distribution center handed out more than 4,200 food packages in the third week in June, a 78% jump from the same week in 2021.

And in places such as Oakland and St. Louis, there’s an increase in the number of first-time visitors to food banks.

Jim Fetsch, chief operating officer for the St. Louis Foodbank, joined NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Thursday to discuss how operations at the facility have been impacted by inflation.

“The economy is driving a lot of individuals to have to make difficult choices on where they’re going to spend their disposable income,” Fetsch said, “and as a result of that, many are having to take advantage of the services we offer.”

The food banks, which had started to see some relief as people returned to work after pandemic shutdowns, are struggling to meet the latest need even as federal programs provide less food to distribute, grocery store donations wane and cash gifts don’t go nearly as far.

Tomasina John was among hundreds of families lined up in several lanes of cars that went around the block one recent day outside St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix. John said her family had never visited a food bank before because her husband had easily supported her and their four children with his construction work.

“But it’s really impossible to get by now without some help,” said John, who traveled with a neighbor to share gas costs as they idled under a scorching desert sun. “The prices are way too high.”

The same scene is repeated across the nation, where food bank workers predict a rough summer keeping ahead of demand.

The surge in food prices comes after state governments ended COVID-19 disaster declarations that temporarily allowed increased benefits under SNAP, the federal food stamp program covering some 40 million Americans.

With prices going up, it also means families might not be able to afford to give to food banks and pantries. Fetsch said retail donations are down 8% over the last 30 days, while demand is up 18%.

“The donations are drying up across all different areas,” Fetsch said.

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