Rainier Valley Food Bank sees increased demand due to higher food prices

Higher prices at the grocery store are not only affecting the families who shop there – it’s also affecting local food banks, which are squeezed under costs and facing greater demand for food.

Deliveries were flying through the door of a Rainier Valley food bank on Saturday, as volunteer drivers lined up to pick up bags of groceries for those in need.

“I love being with people who always help me, because I was brought up that way,” said Lawrence Odom, a longtime food bank volunteer.

Lawrence said working at a food bank is good for the soul. In tough times, he said, acts of service keep him going.

“Mostly I love being around people and seeing people do good and trying to do it in this world, because the world wasn’t what it used to be,” Lawrence said.

For many times, things have become more difficult financially.

The need was incredible,” said another volunteer, Otis Pembleton.

Even before the coronavirus spread, Pembleton said, the need was growing.

“Everyone needs food now, and we’re really busy trying to get it to them,” Otis said. “Even before COVID and all of those things, the need was growing every year.”

Otis said the price hikes affected people’s budgets.

The Food Bank quoted the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which recently reported a 9-16% rise in food costs. It affects everyone at all income levels, food bank staff say, and has caused a surge in demand for the Rainier Valley food bank.

“Inflation certainly plays a real role,” Otis said.

“One of the things that is infuriating is the inflation rate, but also when we ran out of stimulus checks – people who might have been able to get by without coming to the food bank found they needed to come to the food bank,” said Gloria Hatcher. – Mays, CEO of the Rainier Valley Food Bank.

The food bank reported an increase in customer visits year on year in 2022. During the reopening of “personal shopping”, where customers choose their own items, about 180 people attended, with only 20 invitations out.

The food bank estimates that 500 to 600 could appear per day when “shopping days” fully reopen.

Previous coverage: Rising food prices can cause food banks to cut back on services to people in need

“We view our service as helping to stabilize your monthly budget, so you can use the food bank as a safety valve for your expenses each month.” Gloria said.

Otis said the food bank has also gotten creative about working around rising food prices on its own budget.

“There’s a bunch of stuff I like to order at a fancy price. We still get a lot of good food here, but we have to be selective when we buy it, get it in season, and things like that,” Otis said.

“We went from a small site to this big beautiful site,” Gloria said. “It’s expensive, and we’re looking forward to making some additional improvements here, so we can expand our programs.”

Gloria hopes to expand the services in the future.

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“We certainly look forward to seeing if the community will continue to support our growth here,” Gloria said. “It’s very important to us. The work we do is very important to the community. So, I just want to stress how lucky we are to have found this place and how much we hope the community will continue to support it.”

The food bank also held free showers on site on Saturdays for those in need.

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