Rising costs could drive more people to food banks
It’s been a while since Josh Lawrence-Taylor couldn’t regularly find free milk and butter at the local food pantry.
“The shelves here were full of stuff. Now it’s here and there. A very small selection of stuff,” said Lawrence-Taylor, 30, of Canton.
He visits free pantries to supplement what he can buy on what he says is his meager part-time factory earnings. “It’s a coincidence when they have (milk and butter).”
Lawrence-Taylor last month purchased products from the Canton Free Store and Market at Crossroads United Methodist Church in downtown Canton.
In another Free Store and Market regular, Del-cus Evans, 35, from Canton, said he noticed less choice as he faced rent increases and food stamps that didn’t help him. did not provide enough to last.
“They had all kinds of different fruits and vegetables,” he said, adding that he had just gotten a part-time job in manufacturing after two years on disability benefits. “They used to have pastries and stuff.”
“It’s in the hands of God”
Some who run local food pantries say supply chain issues have reduced donations of surplus produce and groceries from local supermarkets to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Strip, which provides many free food pantries. . But rising prices are pushing more and more people to seek help from pantries.
“I was stunned by the price of things. Now I know why the lines are getting longer,” said Carrie Maletich, coordinator of the Canton Free Store and Fresh Market, which is open for a few hours four days a week.
“They’re having a harder time stretching food stamps. … They’re stuck in their financial situation. We’re trying to relieve them of having to choose between shampoo and fresh fruit.”
She said some items like milk don’t routinely come from the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, which sends out four truckloads a week.
“We’ve had milk all last week. Cases and cases,” Maletich said. “It changes every day.”
But she added that the lack of availability of certain fruits was more related to the season.
Leeoma Alostin, 65, from Canton, who was browsing food offerings at the Free Store and Market last month, said what she finds on each visit is not consistent.
“Some days are really good and some are not,” she said.
She said months ago she was able to find vegetables, pork chops, burgers and chicken in the pantry in one trip.
Emphasizing that she is not complaining, Alostin, who lives mainly on Social Security payments, said the selection is not as extensive as gasoline prices have soared.
“It affects me a lot. I’m not going anywhere,” Alostin said. “It’s the cost of living in this world. I don’t care anymore. It’s in God’s hands.”
Supply Issues Affecting Stark Food Bank Shelves
Don Ackerman, pastor of Crossroads United Methodist Church and executive director of Canton For All People, said that in the past, grocery stores have donated much of their excess food. But because of shortages, they have fewer surpluses.
Mike Farmer, general manager of Canton For All People, estimates the amount of produce the Canton Free Store and Fresh Market receives from the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank is about half of what it was a year ago. year.
“It could be oranges this week. Next week it’s pears,” Farmer said. “There’s no shortage (of fruit overall) …. But if all you want is apples, I can’t guarantee you’ll get any today. Tomorrow, I may have some apples.”
Ackerman said Crossroads has two locations in Canton, regularly serving more than 9,300 people.
Dan FlowersCEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, said that even though stores are cutting back on donations, the organization’s fundraising has remained robust, so the food bank has sought to make up the shortfall by purchasing food. The food bank said it provides food to about 600 programs in eight counties in northeastern Ohio.
“Our food shopping budget has increased a lot in 2021,” Flowers said. “It’s not a crisis. But we have these complications. We have less variety. We spend more to get food here. It takes longer to get here. … As long as customer demand remains the same right now, we may be limping in. If demand increases, which I believe it could, with this inflation and gas prices, then we’re in a horrible situation.
The food bank said the amount of food provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and domestic food donors decreased by 17% from 2020 to 2021. He said that before 2020, the nonprofit organization Feed America had 40-50 loads of food available to order on its website. It is now usually 10 charges.
The Akron-Canton Food Bank said his food purchase costs have increased by 10-15% as well as higher fuel and shipping costs. The cost of meat increased an average of 52% to $3.22 per pound. The costs of operating food bank trucks to distribute food have increased by 32% in the first two months of 2022.
Bryan Bowman, founder of the Service Area Military and Veterans in Massillon, says the number of individuals, many veterans, of the SAM Center the demand for food aid from its three monthly food distributions rose to 630 people in March. This is an increase from 563 in February but less than 773 in January.
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Bowman said shipments of milk, butter and eggs from the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, which provides 90% of the SAM center’s food, have become less frequent. SAM often runs out of frozen meat.
So while SAM was able to donate 100 pounds of food per family per distribution last year, the amount is now around 70-80 pounds.
“We’re 100% committed that if somebody comes along, they need food, we’ll get them food,” Bowman said. But, “we have 160 families where we had planned 130. … We ran out of meat. We ran out of milk. We ran out of produce. They got stable (non-perishable) items. Just like the first people who have arrived.”
Bowman said the food bank reinstated the 18 cents a pound fee it waived in 2021.
This allowed the SAM Center to burn $5,000 of its financial reserves. SAMS is stepping up its fundraising by hosting reverse raffles, golf outings and even donations from a bar’s darts tournament, Bowman said.
JoAnn Carpenter is the Director of Development at Refuge of Hope Ministrieswhich provides eight free hot meals to more than 1,000 people per week.
While most of the food served is donated, she says, her organization still has to buy food like seasonings, flour, sauce and butter, with the help of grants and donations. And those costs have increased.
Refuge of Hope recently implemented a cost-cutting measure: it eliminated take-out packaging, which has been provided during the pandemic, to save on the costs of packaging, plastic utensils and cups.
With the price of coffee rising, Refuge of Hope asked a church to hold a collection for people to donate their ground coffee, creamer and sugar packets.
Adding to the challenges, one company, for unclear reasons, stopped regular in-kind donations of milk. Carpenter said the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank made up much of the shortfall.
But she said whatever the challenges, she will do everything in her power to ensure no one in need is turned away.
“We just continue to trust God, serve Him, and ask Him to bless our efforts,” Carpenter said.
“The quality and quantity of food is exactly the same as in 2019, 2020, 2021. We are not reducing food for people who are hungry and in need.”
Contact Robert at (330) 580-8327 or [email protected] On Twitter: @rwangREP.