Rising food costs hurt largest local food banks’ ability to meet demand this holiday

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CLEVELAND (WJW)- The busiest time of year for food banks across the country comes with a new series as challenges as food distribution centers struggle with inflation, shipping delays and in some cases a shortage of food.

“Prices for food are just skyrocketing across the board,” said Jessica Morgan, Chief Food Programs Officer at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

The cost to provide a Thanksgiving meal higher than recent memory, Morgan said costs are up between 20 percent and 26 percent.

“This is the time of year for turkeys, in years past, pre-pandemic, we were sourcing the birds for about $10 per turkey and now we’re upwards of $12, almost $13 per turkey,” Morgan said. “So we certainty feel that impact.”

Costs are rising to get food not only to the food bank but out to its partner agencies and clients across Northeast Ohio.

“It cost a lot of money to get the product here,” said Morgan. “We have a fleet of 20 vehicles, so in addition to us sourcing the product and getting it here we also have to get it out. Our trucks are delivering every single day across our six county service territory and fuel in an of itself is up about 30 percent.”

Rising costs are coming at the worst time, with customer demand for food on the rise as well. The food bank is ordering triple the amount of food it did pre-pandemic expected to distribute 4 million pounds of food in November alone.

“Recently serving about 2,000 households per week,” said Morgan. “We are anticipating seeing up to 5,000 households this Thursday. The end of September, we were still hovering around 15 to 1,600 households every week and we have seen that incrementally increase over the past four weeks.”

The Akron-Canton Regional FoodBank is feeling the squeeze too with food donations down 14 percent.

“It’s been a bit of a perfect storm this year,” said Jennifer Dyer, Director of Operations at the Akron-Canton Regional FoodBank. “We believe the increase in prices predominately are due to staffing shortages across the food sector and supply chain industry overall.”

Dyer said the problem at times created a shortage and forced the food bank to buy even more food to keep up with demand.

“Almost a double whammy, we are not only hit with increased food purchase prices which we’re seeing since April, 10 to 15 percent across all food categories but also we’re experiencing shipping delays and delivery delays,” said Dyer.

Both food banks request additional help from the public to meet the need this holiday season.

“By donating one dollar to us that helps us provide four meals,” said Morgan.

Despite the challenges Morgan said there is no shortage of food at the food bank. She encouraged those in need of extra assistance this holiday to pre-register for what is anticipated to be the largest food distribution of the year at the Municipal Lot Thursday afternoon.

Dyer said they will host two food distributions events this Saturday for the holiday.
“We’re not going to miss a beat and we’re going to make sure that our agencies and that our clients have what they need especially this holiday season.”

To get additional help, call the Greater Cleveland Food Bank at 216-738-2067 or the Akron-Canton Regional FoodBank for assistance at 330-535-6900.

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