Nov 30, 2021 - News

Philadelphia food banks withstanding increased need and rising costs

Illustration of a box that contains some food and dotted outlines of food that is missing.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Philadelphia food banks are scrambling to manage an increase in need and inflated food prices this holiday season.

Why it matters: More than 16% of Philadelphians are food insecure, lacking consistent and reliable access to enough meals, according to the latest 2018 data. But the figure could be as high as 21.2% because of the pandemic.

  • The demand for assistance is only expected to grow this winter.

The big picture: Inflation — which is at a 30-year high — and supply chain issues are fueling a rise in prices for goods across the country.

  • The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased by 11.9%, compared to last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • The index for beef jumped 20% and pork rose 14%, the largest yearly increase since December 1990.

Zoom in: Philabundance, which serves at least 135,000 people per week, originally budgeted to spend about $120,000 per month for food before the pandemic hit. But by the end of fiscal year 2020, the hunger relief nonprofit spent more than $500,000 per month.

  • Prices have only skyrocketed from there. The nonprofit spent a total of $10.5 million in fiscal year 2021. It expects to pay $14.9 million for FY 2022.
  • Philabundance told Axios its fresh fruit freight is getting too expensive. The company is looking for other vendors to work with.

Meanwhile, Share Food Program said it's seeing a 30% increase in food spending compared to last year.

  • The organization also went from serving 700,000 people in the Philadelphia region per month to 1 million.
  • Spokesperson Jessica Bautista told Axios beef has become the most expensive item to obtain, while non food-related items like cat litter and household cleaners are also getting pricier.

What they're saying: Bautista said that the lack of additional emergency sources of food and federal coronavirus assistance, like the Farmers to Families Food Box Program that ended in May, "presents its challenges."

  • Philabundance CEO Loree Jones told Axios they organization is ordering food "well in advance" to address food supply issues. She said they're looking ahead anywhere from six months to a year.

How to help: Both Share Food Program and Philabundance are welcoming more volunteers through their websites.


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