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American Food Banks Struggle to Meet Demands Amid Surging Prices

American Food Banks Struggle to Meet Demands Amid Surging Prices

U.S. food banks already dealing with increased demand from families sidelined by the pandemic now face a new challenge as surging food prices and supply chain issues are impacting everyone across the nation. Food banks that expanded to meet unprecedented demand brought on by the pandemic won’t be able to absorb forever food costs that are two to three times what they used to be.

The higher costs and limited availability mean some families may get smaller servings or substitutions for staples such as peanut butter, which some food banks are buying for nearly double what it cost two years ago. As holidays approach, some food banks worry they won’t have enough staples to go around for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Supply chain disruptions, lower inventory, and labor shortages have all contributed to increased costs for charities on which tens of millions of people in the U.S. rely as the financial support for their nutrition. Donated food is more expensive to move because transportation costs are up, and bottlenecks at factories and ports make it difficult to get goods of all kinds.

If a food bank has to swap out for smaller sizes of canned tuna or make substitutions in order to stretch their dollars, it’s like adding insult to injury to a family reeling from uncertainty. The Associated Press profiled one food bank in the prohibitively expensive San Francisco Bay Area, the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland. ACCFB is spending an extra $60,000 a month on food. Combined with increased demand from people in need, it is now shelling out $1 million a month to distribute 4.5 million pounds of food, said Michael Altfest, the Oakland food bank’s director of community engagement. Pre-pandemic, it was spending a quarter of the money for 2.5 million pounds (1.2 million kilograms) of food.

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The cost of canned green beans and peaches is up nearly 9% for them, Altfest said; canned tuna and frozen tilapia up more than 6%; and a case of 5-pound frozen chickens for holiday tables is up 13%. The price for dry oatmeal has climbed 17%. Alameda County Community Food Bank says it is set for Thanksgiving, with cases of canned cranberry and boxes of mashed potatoes among items stacked in its expanded warehouse. Food resourcing director Wilken Louie ordered eight truckloads of frozen 5-pound chickens —which translates into more than 60,000 birds— to give away free, as well as half-turkeys available at cost.

But they’re poised to be one of the exceptions this Thanksgiving, and not the rule unless donations increase significantly. Read the AP’s full profile on why this is going to be the most expensive holiday season in recent memory here.

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