Andrews United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, volunteers have served 800 to 1,200 families each week since the COVID-19 pandemic began — nearly four times the weekly traffic in 2019.
Similarly, Shannon Cameron, general manager of the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry in Aurora, Illinois, said, “We’re busier than ever.” He said that after a slight dip in tax filing season, 30 to 60 new families are filing each week.
Inflation, which has dominated the economy and has constrained the spending power of many Americans of late, has hit low-income people, who are already struggling, doubly hard. A recent poll by anti-hunger organization Feeding America showed that increased demand has hit nearly 80% of US food banks as more families seek help due to higher prices.
And while President Joe Biden recently signed the Kids Fed Act into law, expanding free meal programs to schoolchildren, many stopgap measures funded during the pandemic have expired or are only available in certain states.
“For households already experiencing food insecurity in 2020, nearly half reported using a pantry,” said Jordan, interim director of policy analysis and coalition building at Bread for the World, a Christian humanitarian group, Teague said. “Now more people are facing the crisis. We all feel the need, and government programs are coming to an end. ,
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Since the 1980s, the US Department of Agriculture has donated surplus items it purchases to the Charitable Food Assistance System, a network of food banks, to help stabilize agricultural prices. For four years, the Trump administration sponsored the program to offset the cost of its tariff increase, increasing USDA contributions to 15% of what some food banks deliver. These resources are now closed as well.
“We were already seeing a real spike in these USDA items before the pandemic hit, and obviously the USDA has made more items available during the pandemic,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas. austin “Now, without them, let’s look at a drop-off.”
More than ever, food banks are trying to fill the gaps with private cash donations and government financial support. “For every dollar donated to a charity, we can increase that to four meals,” said Cole. “We encourage people to educate themselves with our elected officials in support of hunger-fighting programs like SNAP and the Child Nutrition Program.”
Historically high gas prices have further increased pressure on local food supplies, delaying the movement of food from farm to market and from market to food banks.
“We have a fleet of Semi’s, a Christian charity that ships to more than 2,000 churches, nonprofits and community centers across the country,” said Mike Hoffman, warehousing and logistics director at Midwest Food Bank. Prices have taken their toll. We used up our fuel budget for the whole year in the first five months.”
The same supply chain issues that have plagued the economy, including a lack of available truck drivers, also apply to the fight against hunger. Barbara Wojtklewicz, part of the executive team that runs the pantry at Christ Church in Plymouth, Massachusetts, said employees at the Greater Boston Food Bank, a regional network of 600 grocers, had recently reported driver shortages.
“There’s enough food to distribute,” Wojclawicz said, “but they’ve had to … restrict distribution to different pantries.”
Strawberries are delivered to a blackboard during a 2020 pandemic. (Photo: Joel Muniz/Unsplash/Creative Commons)
Major Deb Coolidge is having trouble getting fresh groceries at the Salvation Army food distribution center in Plymouth. “Less lettuce mix and pickles — oranges and apples,” Coolidge said. “You haven’t been on the list for the past few months.”
Donors also get involved and think creatively to fill the vacancies. Wojtklewicz said Christ Church Pantry in Plymouth received 100 gift cards for local grocery stores along with its delivery from the Greater Boston Food Bank.
As economists brace Americans for a possible recession, Beth Zarate, president and CEO of the Catholic charity West Virginia, is “concerned” about her state’s rural residents and their ability to stay ahead of soaring gas prices and food costs. expressed. According to a 2020 USDA study, West Virginia has the highest percentage of households affected by hunger at 15.1%.
The Zarates rely on the West Virginians to help their neighbors. “West Virginia is unique because we’re at the bottom of every table in terms of chronic health problems, hunger and poverty,” Zarate said. “But we also have people who are nice to each other.”
“People are generous,” said Dara Slagley, director of Rose Bounty, a pantry operated out of Stratford Street United Church in Boston, “and when a need is brought to their attention, they can help. I encourage people to give to their local pantry. They could use the money to get the things they need.”
Hoffman of the Midwest Food Bank said prayer is another lifeboat for anti-hunger campaigns.
“We have many prayer warriors,” he said. “Faith community is a big part of what we do,[and]Many churches are praying for us. The Bible says, ‘The poor will always be with you,’ so we know we have a job to do.” It is, and we will continue to do it.”
Julie Royce contributed to this report.
Haley Barker, Riley Farrell, and Marika Proctor write for Religion News Service.