Apr 20, 2022 - Business

Border challenges add to food bank crunch

Central Texas Food Bank volunteers load food and water into a car. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Recent delays at the Texas-Mexico border have left the Central Texas Food Bank scrambling to secure enough fresh produce, as rising prices of goods from gas to groceries drive the need for added support.

Why it matters: The increasing cost of food and living, coupled with an unprecedented demand for assistance during the pandemic, is further impacting those who need food bank services the most.

By the numbers: Before the pandemic, the food bank spent about $100,000 a month to feed members of the community, with much of its product coming from donations.

  • Now, Mark Jackson, Central Texas Food Bank's chief development officer, estimates that number is closer to $1 million each month as the cost of food rises, food donations dwindle and the number of Central Texans facing food insecurity increases.
  • "Pre-pandemic, food banks were focused on as much donated food as possible," Jackson said. "Those sources haven't grown at the rate they need to for us to keep up with the volume we're trying to put out."

State of play: The number of Central Texans using the food bank increased from 241,000 to 276,000 people between February and March. It's tough to point to one reason for the spike, Jackson told Axios.

  • Meanwhile, 1 in 5 Central Texas kids are at risk of hunger, Jackson added.

What they're saying: "There are so many compounding factors that could be at play," Jackson said of the spike, but supply chain issues have "absolutely" impacted operations. "We're definitely experiencing difficulty purchasing food at the wholesale level."

  • And Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to inspect every truck at the border left the food bank struggling to secure sufficient produce, Jackson added.
  • "It hasn't been happening for very long, but the tie up with commerce at the border — we're already starting to see that's impacting our ability to access produce at the volume we buy."

Abbott again threatened to shut down border trade with Mexico on Tuesday, just days after letting up on the aggressive inspections.

Zoom out: Donations from the community drastically increased during the pandemic, allowing the Central Texas Food Bank to meet its new budget.

  • The food bank has seen a decline in donations in recent months, but Jackson says that's normal for the time of year and notes that it's too early to say how it will play out.

How to help: Monetary donations continue to be the best way to help the food bank.

ğŸŽ§ Go deeper: Listen to dispatches on inflation and food insecurity issues across the country via the "Axios Today" podcast.

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