Some anti-hunger groups say they are currently seeing demand that rivals the record levels set in the spring and summer of 2020.
At the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which collects and distributes supplies to more than 700 nonprofit food pantries, community kitchens and childcare centers across the region, demand for food assistance has grown more than 30% since the start of the year, according to CEO Kyle Wade.
Before the pandemic, the ACFB moved about 6 million pounds of food per month. This average jumped to around 10 million pounds during the height of COVID-19 before dropping to around 7 million pounds late last year. Wade said the drop in demand is largely due to Congress’ expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which has helped parents of nearly 2 million children in Georgia pay bills and buy groceries until they expire in late 2021.
this fall, ACFB has returned to distributing 10 million pounds of food per month, according to Wade, serving about 560,000 people per month through that it network. Particularly affected are low-income seniors with stable incomes and families with children, who have had to find room in their budgets to cover supplies and other back-to-school costs.
“If you’re really close to the margins in terms of having any kind of protection in your balance sheet, when grocery prices go up to the degree that they are, when gas prices go up, when the cost of rent goes up, both of those kind of push you to the other side of that line.” Where you are now in powerlessness,” Wade said.
Intown Cooperative Ministries, which operates a food pantry outside Druid Hills Presbyterian Church on Ponce De Leon Street twice a week, saw record demand recently, feeding about 1,100 people a month as of mid-October, according to director of food programs Laura DeGroot. Officials saw a significant spike this summer, she said, after Atlanta Public Schools ended a pandemic electronic benefit transfer program for students who would normally receive free or reduced-price school meals.
In the following month, DeGroot said, organizers saw a 19% increase in the number of families with children coming to their pantry.
“We can just see from our numbers that people are coming in more consistently,” she said. While customers used the pantry as a transitional resource before, “now it looks like we’ve become a major source of food for people.”
inflation, hovering around a four-decade high since last year, It doesn’t just hit families’ budgets. The food banks themselves now pay more for less food and have fewer stockpiles on their shelves.
“We’re buying more food than at any time in the past and we’re buying per unit at a higher cost than ever before,” Wade said. “We’re spending $2 million a month right now buying food, which is not sustainable in the long run.”
Some USDA pandemic-era food procurement programs ended last year, and additional USDA funds funded by Congress’ COVID relief package won’t hit loading docks until January at the earliest, according to Feeding Georgia’s Craft.
A grant program endorsed by Governor Brian Kemp and approved by the state legislature earlier this year helps food pantries buy surplus fruits, vegetables and meat directly from Georgia farmers at a discount. But that funding is set to dry up by December. It is not clear whether the General Assembly will renew the funds next year.
“Hopefully this will be an ongoing thing,” Kraft said.
How you can help:
Most food banks and pantries rely on donations – both financial and related to food – and the work of volunteers:
The Atlanta Community Food Bank, www.acfb.org/
Collaborative Ministries, https://intowncm.org/