From Phoenix, Arizona, in the southwestern United States, to Jackson, Mississippi, in the southeastern United States, people line up in their vehicles to receive food aid from food banks and rangers. eat mobile.
Soaring inflation in the United States is driving up the price of everything from food to gas to rent. And that makes it difficult for many people to buy the food they need.
“We’re seeing a lot more families struggling to make ends meet because the dollar isn’t going as far as it used to at the grocery store,” said Kellie O’Connell, CEO of food pantry Nourishing Hope. in Chicago. “So now people have to make tough choices like paying for medicine or buying food.”
In Phoenix, “a lot of people on fixed incomes, especially in our senior community, are going to the grocery store and seeing prices skyrocket, especially for basic necessities like milk, eggs and meat. “said Jerry Brown, director of media relations for St Mary’s Food Bank. “And they may not be able to afford those items.”
In Virginia, Maria Aguilar, who immigrated from El Salvador, works two jobs to stay afloat and take care of her three children.
“Going to the grocery store is a challenge because the food is so expensive,” she told VOA. “Knowing that I can get extra food makes a big difference,” she said, as she brought bread, fruit and other groceries in her car to Food for Others, a food bank in Fairfax, Virginia, near Washington.
More food needed
The demand for food continues to grow.
“Last week, the number increased to about 68% at our main locations in Phoenix, or 800 to 1,200 families per month,” Brown said.
“We’re seeing much longer lines at pantries and soup kitchens in Mississippi,” said Kelly Durrett, director of external affairs for the Mississippi Food Network.
The network’s 430 partners provide food to people in need in the poorest state in the United States. Since June, Durrett said, the number of people coming to network partners has increased by 10 to 20 percent.
“Our clientele is made up of working poor who have minimum wage jobs that keep them at poverty level,” Durrett told VOA.
“Some people arrive at mobile pantries early, waiting for them to open,” she said. “With such demand, some pantries are running out of food quickly.”
The largest food bank in the United States, located in the city of Houston, Texas, feeds some 1 million people each year through schools, churches and other partners.
Brian Greene, president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank, told VOA: “We don’t have to turn anyone away, but we can’t be as generous with food as we would like. A family probably won’t get as much food as a year ago.”
Some fear the food situation could become as dire as it was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re getting closer every month,” said Meredith Knopp, president and CEO of St. Louis Area Foodbank. “It’s disturbing to see so many people queuing and needing help, many for the first time. We also have people coming in and saying, ‘I can only feed my children, and I don’t have not eaten for two days.'”
Lack of donations
Annie Turner, executive director of Food for Others, said while food needs have increased, food donations have decreased.
“The number of families who came to our warehouse for food almost doubled from June 2021 to June 2022,” she said. At the same time, “we have seen a 42% drop in food donations as the high cost of food also affects our donors.”
“We used to buy around 9% of the food we distributed,” she added, “but now that figure has risen to 32% over the past year.”
The story is similar at other food banks across the United States.
“Our grocery store donations are down about 33%, so we have to supplement that with food purchases,” O’Connell said in Chicago.
In Phoenix, “we’re probably going to have to buy about 200 percent more food over the next year because we know we’re not going to be getting any from donations,” Brown said.
“I hope communities will come together to provide food aid as they have during the coronavirus pandemic.” said O’Connell.
“We are telling local farmers that we will arrange for volunteers to pick up fruits and vegetables that can be distributed to people in need,” Knopp said.
At Food for Others, William Gonzales said he was grateful for the food given to him. “My family is struggling, and it helps make our lives so much easier.”
The network’s 430 partners provide food to people in need in the poorest state in the United States. Since June, Durrett said, the number of people coming to network partners has increased by 10-20%.