Food pantries across the U.S. say they’re struggling to meet demand as the rising cost of groceries is forcing more Americans to opt for donated meals.
A recent survey from Feeding America, a nonprofit network of 200 food banks, found that 155 food pantries reported a jump in families coming to their door.
“People coming through and they’re not just getting for their family, but they might have a sister or a brother they’re getting a little bit extra for,” Tehma Smith Wilson, who runs a food pantry in Baltimore, told CBS News.
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The increase in people seeking help from food banks is also taxing pantries’ own resources. In the past, Wilson said her pantry typically received 700 boxes of food to donate — that number is now around 100.
“But we can’t complain because something is better than nothing,” Wilson said.
Grocery store prices jumped 13% in July, the biggest one-year increase since March 1979, according to the latest Consumer Price Index data. Eggs had the largest price spike at 38% compared to a year ago, while costs of flour (up 23%), butter (22%) and coffee (20%) have also soared, government data show.
Those increases, along with the high cost of gas and other staples, are forcing households to change the way they shop for food. One Baltimore mother of two told CBS News that her paycheck as a restaurant worker isn’t enough to cover the rising cost of groceries.
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“I even have to go to the grocery store in the early morning — like 6 or 7 in the morning — so I can get the cheap meat because they sell meat from yesterday cheaper,” she told CBS News, noting that she sometimes turns to a food pantry.
Households spent an average of $408 a week on food in June or July, up from $318 in May 2021, according to LendingTree.
Crystal Jenkins, also of Baltimore, said she has to split her food shopping between a food bank and the supermarket. Jenkins, who recently took home two bags of groceries from Wilson’s food bank, said the items will last her household of six for two days.
“And then I’ll be back at the pantry again and again,” Jenkins said.
Khristopher J. Brooks is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering business, consumer and financial stories that range from economic inequality and housing issues to bankruptcies and the business of sports.