Up and down the market’s aisles, groceries keep getting more expensive. Due to many issues, including transportation expenses and supply chain problems, the receipts are noticeably higher each grocery trip, and some items aren’t available. While you are navigating higher prices on essentials like gas and groceries, so are we at the Chester County Food Bank. In addition to rising costs, we are also seeing an increased demand for food assistance. Many households are being forced to adjust their shopping lists or they are seeking help from food cupboards, some for the first time.
“Prices are rising just as we continue to work through ways to meet demand,” said Catie Hargraves, Director of Procurement and Distribution. “Last year we received dairy, meat, and produce boxes through the USDA’s Farm to Family Covid Response, but funding was not renewed for the supplemental program this year.” “Fresh produce pricing always increases during the off-season,” Hargraves continued, “We are seeing some prices up as much as 40% – the highest price increases in over five years.” It is increasingly difficult for our wholesale cooperative partner to acquire produce at a reasonable cost and some fruits and vegetables are not available in the current market. Some weeks, to meet the need, we have had to resort to purchasing from wholesalers at double and triple the cost.”
In addition to pre-packed produce boxes, the Chester County Food Bank strives to provide clients with four to six fruits and vegetables per week through distributions to our network of 160 hunger relief partners, like food cupboards.
“Cauliflower and broccoli are two of the most frequently requested items from clients to our partner food cupboards,” said Hargraves. Our buying power typically enables us to bring in products at far lower than retail value, but right now the wholesale costs are mirroring grocery store increases.
In 2021, 50% of the 3.5 million pounds of food distributed by the Chester County Food Bank was fresh fruits and vegetables. We hope to sustain this high volume and variety of healthy food for our network of community partners that distribute to our neighbors in need.
The pandemic has exacerbated the issues of families who were already facing an uphill battle. Food insecurity has increased nearly 3% in our county, and the ripple effects persist. We remain committed to addressing food insecurity and securing adequate funding is essential to our organization’s success, particularly during a time when contributions are down, and food insecurity is increasing.
The surge in food prices has everyone’s attention, no matter your economic status. Managing higher costs on needs like housing or medicine is much more difficult for people with limited means. When prices go up, there is less slack in the budget causing further hardship.
“I get $25 in food stamps,” says Theresa, who lives with her brother and two grandchildren. “I have COPD and diabetes, so it’s expensive. I wouldn’t be here at the cupboard if I didn’t need it. Seeing the pantry items, dairy, sweet potatoes, and broccoli go into my car – I am grateful for the food bank. We can use all we can get.”
The pandemic is not over, and our neighbors – families, seniors, and veterans continue to struggle. Despite these uncertainties, we are committed to our holistic and sustainable approach to addressing the pressing need of food-insecure families in Chester County.
How can you help? Learn more about the Chester County Food Bank and support its mission by visiting www.chestercountyfoodbank.org/donate. Host a virtual food drive to help offset food purchasing. Every dollar counts! We can purchase nearly 5x more with every donated dollar.
If you are in need of food assistance, visit www.chestercountyfodobank.org/needfood or call 610-873-6000.