With food prices on the rise, food pantries struggle to meet needs

November 26, 2012

(Greater Chicago Food Depository)
The Food Depository has seen an 85 percent increase in the number of pantry visits over the last five years. The record need arrives as the Food Depository has seen challenges in food sourcing due to rising food prices, fewer food donations and limited government food.

An increase in food prices will make it harder for local food banks to feed families beyond the holidays.

Sister Joellen Tumas is the director of Casa Catalina, a food pantry in Chicago’s South Side. She said when food prices go up, fewer donations come through distribution centers like the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD).

And that decreases the food supply in neighborhood pantries.

“I think everyone who goes to the store is noticing they get two bags of groceries and it’s like $50,” said Tumas. “As the prices of food go up, our subsidies prices at the depository go up.”  

This Thanksgiving, the GCFD distributed less food than last year.

“Our overall food donations are down by 3 million pounds versus one year ago, largely due to the Midwestern drought,” said Jim Conwell from the GCDF in a statement.  “The lack of food donations has led us to purchase more food—1.2 million pounds more than at this time a year ago.”

The US Department of Agriculture also reduced the commodities allocated to local food pantries forcing them to buy more food when needed.

Despite the current challenges, food donation is higher in the holidays than other times of the year, explained Tumas.

“Hunger is there 12 months a year,” she said. “Usually, the holiday’s food we get maybe will last through January, but once February, March comes then we are struggling to provide enough food.”

Tumas said she received enough donations this year to feed over 350 families around Thanksgiving.

She also said instead of just Christmas collections, groups should consider a Valentine’s Day food drive.

According to the Chicago Food Depository, there has been an 85 percent increase in the number of pantry visits over the last five years.