Long lines have returned to US food banks, where inflation is high

There are long lines back in the food banks around the United States where working Americans, preoccupied with inflation, turn to leaflets to help their families feed.

As petrol prices rise sharply along with food costs, many people are looking for charity food for the first time and more are coming on foot.

Inflation in the United States is at a 40-year high and gas prices have been rising since April 2020, when national average costs fell briefly to $ 5 a gallon in June. Rapidly rising rents and the end of federal COVID-19 relief have also taken a financial toll.

The food banks, which were relieved when people returned to work after the pandemic closed, are struggling to meet the latest need, even as federal plans provide less food to distribute, grocery spending declines and monetary donations do not come close. as far as.

Tomasina John was in a group of hundreds of families in rows in several lanes of cars passing through the block one recent day outside the St. Louis food bank. Mary’s in Phoenix. John said her family had never visited a food bank before because her husband had easily supported her and their four children in his construction work.

“But it’s really impossible to get out of now without any help,” said John, who traveled with his neighbors to share the cost of gasoline as they went into a standstill under the scorching desert sun. “The price is far too high.”

Volunteer fills vehicle with lunch boxes in St. Mary’s Food Bank on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Phoenix.

Jesus Pascual was also in the queue.

“This is a real struggle,” said Pascual, a caretaker who estimated that he would spend hundreds of dollars a month on groceries for him, his wife and their five children, ages 11 to 19.

The same scenario is repeated throughout the nation, where food bank employees predict a rough summer and stay ahead of demand.

The rise in food prices follows the end of COVID-19 disaster declarations by governments that temporarily allowed increased benefits under SNAP, the US $ 40 million federal food stamp program.

“It does not look like it will get better overnight,” said Katie Fitzgerald, president and chief operating officer of Feeding America. “The demand really complicates the supply challenges.

The distribution of charity food has remained well above the amount released before the coronary virus epidemic, even though demand declined somewhat late last year.

U.S. feeding officials say second-quarter data will not be ready until August, but they hear rumors from food banks nationwide that demand is rising.

The Phoenix Food Bank’s main distribution center distributed food packages to 4,271 families in the third week of June, a 78% increase over the 2,396 families served in the same week last year, said Jerry Brown, a spokesman for St. Louis. Mary’s.

More than 900 families line up at the distribution center every weekday for the government’s emergency lunch box, which is filled with products such as canned beans, peanut butter and rice, Brown said. St. Mary’s adds products donated with cash gifts, as well as food from local supermarkets such as bread, carrots and pork chops for a combined package worth about $ 75.

The distribution of Alameda County Community Food Bank in Northern California has increased since the pandemic peaked earlier this year, increasing from 890 homes served on the third Friday in January to 1,410 homes on the third Friday in June, the marketing manager said. Michael Altfest.

Volunteers fill food carts with food to distribute while driving in St. Louis. Mary's Food Bank on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Phoenix.

Volunteers fill food carts with food to distribute while driving in St. Louis. Mary’s Food Bank on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Phoenix.

At Houston Food Bank, the largest food bank in the United States, where the volume of food distribution earlier in the pandemic peaked at a staggering £ 1 million a day, an average of £ 610,000 is issued daily.

That is from about £ 500,000 a day before the pandemic, said spokeswoman Paula Murphy.

Murphy said that monetary donations have not decreased, but inflation ensures that they do not reach as far.

Food bank officials said a sudden increase in demand had taken them by surprise.

“Last year, we had expected declining demand for 2022 because the economy was doing so well,” said Michael Flood, CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. “This issue of inflation came up quite suddenly.”

“A lot of this is people who are working and doing well during a pandemic and maybe saw their wages go up,” Flood said. “But they have also seen food prices rise above their budget.

The Bank of Los Angeles released around £ 30 million in valuations in the first three months of this year, slightly less than in the first quarter but still well above the £ 22 million given in the first quarter of 2020.

Feeding America’s Fitzgerald is calling on the USDA and Congress to find a way to recover hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods that were recently lost with the end of several temporary programs to provide food to people in need. USDA commodities, which in general can represent up to 30% of the food distributed by banks, accounted for more than 40% of all food distributed during the 2021 fiscal year by the Feeding America network.

“There is an urgent need for the government to buy more food now,” Fitzgerald said.

In the Trump administration, the USDA bought several billion dollars in pork, apples, dairy products, potatoes and other products in a program that gave the food bank most of it. The “Food Purchase and Distribution Program,” designed to assist U.S. farmers affected by tariffs and other U.S. business practices, has since ended. Authorizations were for $ 1.2 billion for the fiscal year 2019 and $ 1.4 billion for the year 2020.

Another temporary USDA “Farmers to Families” program that provided emergency assistance provided more than 155 million food boxes for families in need across the United States during the peak of the pandemic before its end on May 31, 2021.

A USDA spokesman noted that the agency uses $ 400 million from the Build Back Better initiative to enter into agreements with states, territories and tribal governments to purchase food from local, regional and under-served producers that can be given to food banks, schools and other feeding programs.

There is plenty of food at the moment, but it may not be in the future, said Michael G. Manning, president and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in Louisiana. He said high fuel costs also make it much more expensive to collect and distribute food.

The USDA Food Assistance Program, which included farmers for families, was a “blessing” to Alameda County Food Bank and provided £ 5 billion in products in one year, a Altfest spokesman said.

“So losing this was a big hit,” he said.

Volunteer fills vehicle with lunch boxes in St. Mary's Food Bank where dozens of vehicles line up in the background on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Phoenix.

Volunteer fills vehicle with lunch boxes in St. Mary’s Food Bank where dozens of vehicles line up in the background on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Phoenix.

Altfest said that up to 10% of those now looking for food are first-time pioneers and a growing number are showing up on foot rather than in cars to save on petrol.

“The food they get from us helps them save when stretched budgets for other expenses such as petrol, rent, diapers and infant formula,” he said.

At the same time, the bank’s food purchases have jumped from an average of $ 250,000 a month before the pandemic to as much as $ 1.5 million now due to food prices. High petrol costs forced the bank to increase fuel costs by 66%, Altfest said.

Supply chain problems are also a problem, which requires the food bank to be more aggressive in its purchases.

“We used to reorder when our inventory dropped to a value of three weeks, now we reorder for up to six weeks,” said Altfest.

He said that the food bank has already ordered and paid for whole chickens, fillings, cranberries and other festive products that he will distribute for Thanksgiving, the busiest time of the year.

At the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in Montebello east of Los Angeles, employees say they are seeing many families along with older people like Diane Martinez, who lined up one recent morning on foot.

Some of the hundreds of recipients, mostly Spanish-speaking, owned cars nearby. They carried plastic bags, cardboard boxes, or wheelbarrows to pick up food packages at the Los Angeles Bank’s distribution point.

“Food prices are so high and it’s rising higher every day,” said Martinez, who expressed gratitude for the bags of black beans, ground beef and other foods. “I’m so glad they can help us.”

Long lines have returned to US food banks, where inflation is high

Source link Long lines have returned to US food banks, where inflation is high

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