Nov 23, 2023 - Health

Food bank demand high but donations fall

Illustration of a place setting, with the plate cracked like dry land.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Food banks squeezed by high levels of need and fewer donations are bracing for a tough holiday season.

Why it matters: High grocery prices mean consumers are less likely to donate food this holiday season — putting nonprofits in a tough spot for Thanksgiving and Christmas, newly released data shows.

Zoom in: Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks, said there's heightened demand for food assistance across the country.

  • Food banks have been serving more people with fewer resources, USA Today reported. And the holidays will put further pressure on families and the banks.

Meanwhile, Americans are less likely to donate food this holiday season, according to a survey conducted by Divert Inc., a food waste reduction company.

  • Just 25% of survey respondents said they're more likely to donate this year compared to previous years. Americans last year gave the lowest percentage of their disposable incomes to charity in nearly three decades.
  • "Those who are donating less to food banks this season cite increasing food and grocery costs as the number one reason driving their decision," per Divert.

State of play: Almost half of respondents said the holidays are when they're more likely to donate to food banks, corresponding with a surge in demand.

  • That may not be the case in the next couple of months, the survey showed, despite food prices for holiday meals decreasing this year compared to last year's record high.

Zoom out: Last year saw the highest rates and numbers of people living under food insecurity since 2014, per the USDA.

  • 44 million people were living in food insecure households in 2022, according to the USDA, a 31% increase since 2022 and the largest one-year increase since 2008.
  • 13 million children were food insecure in 2022, a 44% increase since the prior year.

By the numbers: Feeding America served 5.3 billion meals in fiscal year 2023 (July 1 to June 30) in response to higher demand than in recent years.

  • 2022: 5.2 billion meals
  • 2021: 6.6 billion meals
  • 2020: 5.2 billion meals
  • 2019: 4.2 billion meals

Seven in 10 lower- and middle-income parents are struggling to afford food ahead of Thanksgiving, according to recent polling from ParentsTogether Action, a nonprofit family advocacy organization.

  • The federal government ended pandemic-era food assistance in March, so this is the first holiday season in years without additional help to families in need.

Go deeper: Food insecurity spiked last year, new report shows

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