For nearly two years, economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic put increased demand on food banks across the US. As the need declines, they face new problems.
"Rising cost of food and ongoing challenges with the supply chain is making it more expensive for food banks to purchase food and even move donated food across this country," said Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Feeding America, a network of over 200 food banks across the country.
Low inventory, supply chain disruption, and labor shortages have created the bottleneck that contributed to increased costs for charities.
"We are continuing to navigate this really difficult storm that the pandemic has created."
In 2020, the pandemic's peak, one in five people turned to the charitable food system for help. Although the food banks could answer the call, they won't be able to absorb these new cost increases long-term.
"We are concerned about the fact that emergency funding and other sorts of supports that the federal government has put into place are starting to go away at the same time," Fitzgerald explained in an interview with CNN.
"When food prices rise, so does food insecurity," she said. "We still have 38 million Americans who are food insecure here in this country."
Fitzgerald says many food banks are now forced to find ways to stretch donations, including smaller portion sizes or food substitutions.
"We're remaining very guarded and preparing to make sure that those 38 million Americans who are continuing to struggle with food insecurity have the support that they need moving forward."
Giving --and receiving-- help
Fitzgerald said it is crucial for those who can support the charitable food system to do so now.
"We couldn't have supported the 60 million people who reached out to the charitable food system over the last year without the help of everyday Americans."
Help can come in the form of financial contributions and donations of non-perishable foods.
Fitzgerald also urged the food industry to continue to donate unused goods to local food banks.
"This is a problem we can solve," said Fitzgerald.
"We have enough food in this country, and we can make sure that every child and every American has enough nutritious food to eat."
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