Food banks and pantries in the greater Cincinnati area are seeking more donations and volunteers as they see an influx of people looking for food as costs at the pump and in grocery stores continue to rise .
Food banks and pantries are facing what Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, calls “the perfect storm,” which is driving increased demand for volunteers and food. This storm, she said, has the potential to turn into a public health crisis if no action is taken.
Shortages in the global supply chain have resulted in higher prices at the gas pump, as well as at the grocery store. Hamler-Fugitt said these price increases – coupled with higher utilities and rental fees — led more Ohioans to seek out food pantries and their services.
“Your rent eats first,” Hamler-Fugitt said. “If your rent went up, you had to take a portion of your food budget in order to pay for those additional rising rent costs. The same with gas.”
Food and fuel costs add to pandemic pressure
Global supply chain shortages caused food prices to rise in 2020, but food and fuel costs have risen even more sharply since then, creating a multiplier effect for consumers. Because of this effect, most families Self-service food bank The services have spent their reserves trying to stay stable, said Kurt Reiber, president and chief executive. Around 75% of families who come to Freestore’s large-scale food distributions have never been to one of their pantries.
Mary Delaney, executive director of Community Matters, said the organization’s community market had begun to feel similar pressures over the past year. The pandemic has led to some people coming to the market on a more regular basis and an increase in after-hours appointments, Delaney said.
The dramatic price increase was also felt at Kentucky-based food banks and pantries. In March, about 65% of food banks saw greater demand for food than the previous month, said Katrina Thompson, executive director of Feeding Kentucky.
The Brighton Center in Newport, Ky., offers 47 different programs supporting those in the area, including a food pantry. Eric Owsley, director of the Family Center, said the pandemic has caused increased need for all Brighton Center programs at the Family Center. This includes the pantry, the emergency assistance program and financial aid package, Owsley said.
Thompson also said the increased demand in food pantries coincided with the loss of some federal aid, such as emergency allocations for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP Emergency Benefits ended after April for Kentuckians, but Continue for Ohioans in June, according to the USDA website.
More fuel, good prices hit the pantries
Food pantries and banks are under the same pressure of food and gas prices as those they serve. Thompson said Feeding Kentucky has started making sure all trucks leaving for delivery come back with something, and the organization also tries to combine multiple stops during deliveries to save fuel.
Despite price increases, food banks and pantries are still striving to provide individuals with healthy, fresh food. Reiber said it can be difficult, with the cost of some fruits and vegetables skyrocketing by 50%.
Likewise, Delaney said the Community Market tries to keep “essential” items that families often need — like dairy, vegetables and meat — on its shelves. How long this may last remains unclear.
“The concern is sustainability. How long can we keep going if prices keep going up and donations keep going down?” said Delaney.
Thompson said Feeding Kentucky also tried to distribute its staples, including flour, rice and beans. But even those items have been subject to higher prices, Thompson said, and food banks are spending about 40% more on food.
Hamler-Fugitt said Ohioans are very charitable and gave a lot during the height of the pandemic. Food banks and pantries are encouraging individuals to continue donating and volunteering at facilities if they can, especially as donations from retailers and manufacturers dwindle due to food shortages. Supply Chain.
What’s more needed, Hamler-Fugitt said, is for the government to take action to support both workers and food banks. Food banks in Ohio are asking for $50 million in emergency funding and $133 million for longer-term needs, which they say the state can fund with money from the fund for days. rain or unspent federal dollars from sources such as the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We need wages to go up, that’s for sure – it would help working people a lot,” she said. “We just need support to make sure we can continue to source food from Ohio farmers, growers and commodity producers through the Ohio Clearance Program (Agricultural).”
Owsley, along with others, said it’s important to note that the majority of people using their services are working families who don’t earn enough to make ends meet in a rising price environment.
“I can’t stress enough the critical role that safety net providers play,” Owsley said. “With these families, you see these working families, these single-parent homes…everyone is struggling to move on right now. We all feel it.”
how to help
Self-service food bank encourages individuals to participate in “virtual food drives”, where they will receive a donation link to share with family and friends. Learn more here. Volunteer time slots are also available on lineat freestorefoodbank.org.
Santa Maria Community Servicesin big Price Hill, accept cash donations on santamaria-cincy.org in addition to other giveaways.