Kendall Nunamaker and her family of five in Kennewick, Washington, faced impossible math this month: how to pay for gas, groceries and mortgages when inflation raises prices?
Like many other working families, the Nunamakers are struggling with 8.3% inflation in the April consumer price index announced on Wednesday – a slight slowdown compared to March, which was the highest growth year since 1981, according to the Ministry of Labor . The average gas price on Wednesday reached a record high of $ 4.40 per gallon. And world food prices are rising after the deficit caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine and other supply chain problems.
Food banks across America say these economic conditions are boosting demand for their support at a time when their labor and distribution costs are rising and donations are slowing. The problem has grown to the point that last week President Joe Biden called for a conference on hunger, nutrition and health in September, the first since 1969.
For many families, such as the Nunamakers, food security came as a painful surprise.
“There’s no reason for us, as a couple and family, to fight so hard,” Nunamaker said. “We make decent money.”
She works three days a week at a home decor store for $ 15.25 an hour; her husband Nick works a full-time union as a paratrooper driver for $ 27 an hour. Even though they get some money from the state nutrition program for young children, which two of their younger ones are eligible for, they still spent $ 360 on food last week.
Due to inflated prices, these products did not go so far as to feed everyone. And the family still lacked the money to pay other household bills, leaving Nunamaker wondering how she would stretch their next salary to cover those bills and mortgages this month.
In the past, to close the gap, the family sold things like VR headsets and firearms.
“At some point,” said Nunamaker, “we won’t have anything because we would sell everything.”
So Nunamaker and her husband last week visited two local food banks for the first time.
According to Feeding America, the pandemic has forced about 60 million Americans to seek help in the absence of food security. At the end of 2021, when wages are rising, demand for food banks has returned to normal. But the relief was short-lived.
“In the last few months, with such rising inflationary pressures, we see that 95% of our 200 food member banks say they have seen either an alignment or an increase in demand,” said Claire Babino-Fanteno, CEO of Feeding America.
In the area along the Columbia River, where Nunamaker lives, the number of customers seeking food aid in the churchyard jumped by 40% between December and March, according to Eric Williams, director of community at Second Harvest, which supplies local pantries. with food.
He said his organization needs to do more with smaller quantities because its suppliers are experiencing the same increase in costs. The price Second Harvest pays for receiving donated products has risen from about 6 cents a pound a year ago to about 10 or 11 cents a pound now, Williams said.
Some of Feeding America’s food chamber partners have closed due to reduced donations and increased costs for receiving and delivering food. Others have less food on the shelves, although they are more in demand.
“Our network emphasizes access and justice,” Babino-Fanteno said. “Therefore, we make every effort to reach people with the highest level of food security. Well, how far can we go when gas prices are high? We have data that show that race and location are important indicators of whether you will feel food danger and how deeply you will feel food danger. ”
Due to inflation and cuts in aid, the food bank that serves three counties in Ohio – also called the “Second Harvest” – is facing a drop in the amount of food it can provide.
“Compared to last year at this time, we’re about 50% less than we’ve received in the past in federal food donations, and then about 20% less from food disks in our food collection at grocery stores,” the executive said. director, ”said Tyra Jackson. “All of this together really affects our budget because we need to buy more food.”
The struggle of families is exacerbated by the fact that government payments that were increased during the pandemic, like food stamps or unemployment insurance, have stopped or will end soon.
“Our work is always important,” Babino-Fontaine said. “It’s all the more important when we have all these headwinds.”
Williams of Spokane thanked the donors and volunteers who support his organization, some of whom worked more than 100 shifts last year. He said it may be difficult to see at first glance the scale of food security in his community by helping with distribution in a mobile food bank.
“You see the need and just say,‘ Oh my God, my God, ’” Williams said. “But then when you hand someone a box of food and they leave, ‘Yes, we were able to help,’ which on the one hand breaks the heart and on the other – pleases the heart.”
Because it upsets her greatly, Nunamaker said, she did not discuss her family’s problems with her three children aged 2, 4 and 7 or a network of friends and relatives. She said food banks helped her family last week.
“People need to know that just because you have to go to a food bank or you have to seek help doesn’t make you less of a parent or a person,” she said. “Because everyone needs help every time.”
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