INDIANAPOLIS — Like you, food banks are feeling the pinch of inflation and supply chain issues. The Midwest Food Bank reports its fuel costs have increased by 40%, and the cost of using third-party trucks has drastically increased.
“It costs us 100% more, so twice what we used to pay,” Executive Director John Whitaker said. “$1,200 to $1,500 last year to have a load of donated food picked up, now costs us $3,000 to $3,500 to have it picked up.”
Whitaker said it’s also difficult to hire truck drivers.
“It’s just a merry-go-round of problems that we have to overcome to be able to do our work,” Whitaker explained.
Whitaker explained that they give away all of the food donated and said the amount they can give depends on how much people donate.
“Every dollar that comes into the Midwest Food Bank goes directly to feed people,” Whitaker said. “We can turn that into $50 worth of food to go out and give to someone.”
Gleaners gets a significant amount of food from the United States Department of Agriculture. But, Chief Financial and Operations Officer Joe Slater said the dollar isn’t stretching as far for the growers and producers from the government.
“They told us an example is, they used to buy 24 truckloads of chicken with the allotted dollars,” Slater explained. “Those same dollars will buy 20 truckloads now. So our supply of that food is cut in half, which for us is a shortfall of about 10 million pounds of food this fiscal year.”
Gleaners said this means its team will have to come up with enough money to afford eight million meals to make up for the loss.
“If we can’t manage the economics to have enough food to distribute what each household might need when they come for assistance, they get less food,” Slater said.
Gleaners recently unveiled a protein repackaging room.
“There’s actually a lot of bulk protein at producers and manufacturing plants out there that typically just gets landfilled, just gets thrown away because nobody can do anything with it,” Slater said. “It’s in big drums or totes or 40 lb packages of things. So we just brought online this week a room where we can adhere to the highest standards of cleanliness and sanitization and we can take those bulk items and we can package them down so good protein doesn’t get thrown away, it’s actually going to get into the hands of a family that needs it.”
Food banks are also concerned with the increase in households who will need help come June. That’s when people will not be receiving as much in SNAP benefits because the pandemic increase is ending.