Nationwide Network of Hunger-Relief Organizations Sees Continued Demand Amid Widespread Inflation and Expiring Pandemic-Related Support
Chicago, IL – Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest Consumer Price Index data, which showed that inflation rose 8.5% for the year ended in March – levels not seen since 1981. At the same time, the latest Feeding America food bank pulse survey data shows that more food banks, around 85% of the 200 food bank network, report seeing demand for food assistance increase or stay the same for February compared to the previous month, about a 20% increase from the previous survey.
Over the past two years, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has expanded to provide additional benefit allotments to help low-income households weather the storm. With emergency declarations ending across the nation, those additional pandemic-related benefit allotments are expiring state by state, and another hunger crisis is looming. While the pandemic appears to be receding for the time being, Feeding America expects that demand for food assistance will remain elevated and may grow as people’s expanded assistance goes away. On average, when the Public Health Emergency declaration ends, participants in emergency allotment states will lose $82 a month in SNAP benefits. For participants who qualify for the minimum SNAP benefits, their monthly allotments will plunge from $250 to a mere $20.
“The reality is too many neighbors must continuously be forced to make difficult decisions between paying for food or other necessities like rent and medicines. Nearly one-third of a low-income household’s budget is spent on food, and any incremental increases to food prices can have a dramatic effect to their overall stability and security,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “Community food assistance continues to be an essential piece of a household’s budget planning. In order for the Feeding America network of food banks, food pantries, and meal programs to continue to provide food and assistance to the tens of millions of people turning to us for help, we need continued support from both the public and private sector.”
The Feeding America network is not immune from the impacts of inflation, with every aspect of food bank operations including purchasing food, transporting donated food, energy for cold storage, and other costs including fuel, wages, and even vehicle maintenance seeing significant increases. To close the gap and keep up with demand, food banks are purchasing nearly as much food as they did in 2021 but are now paying 40% more for those purchases. Feeding America projects that the food bank network will experience a 20% decrease in manufacturing donations and a 45% decrease in federal commodities in fiscal year 2022, running July 2021 to June 2022. Over the past six months, 55% of Feeding America food banks have reported their overall food donations are down. Without additional funding and federal commodities, food banks cannot be expected to meet this crisis and give their communities the support they need.
“This is not a sustainable solution for our neighbors facing hunger,” Babineaux-Fontenot continued. “In the coming months and years, we are facing a historically unprecedented set of simultaneous challenges and we need to strengthen our commitment and resolve to support our neighbors' ability to not just to survive, but to thrive. While we work towards reducing food insecurity for all in the long-term, in the immediate near term, we are asking for USDA and Congress along with our partners and supporters to help us through this storm.”
To address this crisis, Feeding America is putting a call for support and everyone can get involved:
- Congress should ensure that food banks have the critical food resources and program flexibilities necessary to address the need for food assistance by providing $900 million for TEFAP in spending legislation and extending child nutrition waivers.
- USDA should take any and all actions at their disposal to increase the availability of commodity foods, including:
- Using the Commodity Credit Corporation or other funds available to provide critically needed food purchases. This will help address the supply chain challenges and increased demand food banks are facing. USDA has precedent for similar actions, both through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program and the recent Supply Chain Assistance Funds providing resources to schools.
- USDA should fully utilize Section 32 authority to support consumption of domestic commodities through additional food purchases for distribution through USDA nutrition programs.
- USDA should ensure that state plans for the $400 million in Local Food Purchase Agreement grants procure foods from diverse and underrepresented producers where possible and distribute food through AIB-inspected food banks and other nonprofit partners held to high standards of food safety, equitable distribution, and non-discrimination.
- Food industry partners should reach out to Feeding America or local food banks to explore avenues for donation and food rescue. More information on becoming a food donor can be found at FeedingAmerica.org/donatefood.
- For individuals, donors and advocates, please continue to support Feeding America and local hunger-relief organizations, either by volunteering, donating, and calling on elected officials to support strong nutrition program legislation.
Millions of communities across the United States need immediate solutions to ensure they do not have to skip meals due to rising food prices. A shared commitment is necessary between charities, the private sector, and the government to bolster both food and nutrition security across the nation.
For more information about Feeding America’s hunger-relief efforts and to learn how to help, visit FeedingAmerica.org.
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About Feeding America
Feeding America® is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of more than 200 food banks, 21 statewide food bank associations, and over 60,000 partner agencies, food pantries and meal programs, we helped provide 5.2 billion meals to tens of millions of people in need last year. Feeding America also supports programs that prevent food waste and improve food security among the people we serve; brings attention to the social and systemic barriers that contribute to food insecurity in our nation; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Visit www.feedingamerica.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.