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Food banks struggle with supply amid increased demand, inflated costs

Jonese Franklin

Food pantries across the region and nationwide are experiencing an uptick in need and a shortage of resources.

Kara Brown is executive director of the Center for Lay Ministries in Jeffersonville, Ind. The nonprofit runs a food pantry for families, as well as an addiction and recovery program for women. Brown said more people are experiencing food insecurity than she’s seen before.

“This is an even bigger need than what we saw at the start of the pandemic when people were losing their jobs. The cost of everything is just hitting everybody so hard,” Brown said. “We’re seeing a lot of food insecurity. Our numbers have just been increasing every day.”

Earlier this month, the organization served 84 households in one day — an all-time high, according to Brown.

“Before, we would see higher numbers at the beginning of the month and at the end of the month. And right now we’re just seeing a huge need every day,” Brown said.

The Center for Lay Ministries is a partner of regional food bank Dare to Care. Brown said an increase in people seeking help, coupled with inflated food and gas prices, is causing a shortage of fresh foods like meat and produce. In turn, families are getting smaller rations each month.

“We have some food to give away every day, we’re just not seeing an abundance of it,” Brown said. “We have had to lower the amounts of meat we give away to each household because we just don’t have as much to give. And because, when we purchase it, the cost of everything is going up, so our money doesn’t go as far.”

Vincent James, president and CEO of Dare to Care, said expired pandemic relief funding and benefits — like the child tax credit and extended supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP — are also driving demand.

“More and more folks are utilizing the pantries, some returning that hadn’t used it in a while, because people literally are making choices as they’re going into the grocery store and at the gas pump, you know: Do I put gas in my car? Do I buy food?” James said.

James said there’s a need for the federal government to help by providing emergency funding or economic stimulus payments.

“I don’t foresee it in the near future because of just where we are in our economy. We’re hoping that we don’t move into a recession,” James said. “We need for our community to continue to be generous. Being able to provide those resources and funding to continue to help our neighbors who are really struggling.”

Donations have dropped, according to Kara Brown in Southern Indiana. She’s urging people to consider giving whatever they can, whether that’s food, money or volunteering to help with packaging and distribution.

Residents experiencing food insecurity can access a directory of regional resources and food pantries on Dare to Care’s website. There, people can also learn more about volunteer opportunities and ways to donate.

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