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As donations slow down, food pantry demand rises with inflation

Canned vegetables sitting in a cabinet at the Porch Pantry in Peoria.
Canned vegetables sitting in a cabinet at the Porch Pantry in Peoria.(WEEK)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 5:27 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - The Porch Pantry in Peoria has a homey feel, walking up to get food feels like one’s borrowing it from a neighbor.

Today, though, the cabinets typically filled with cans and dried goods were nearly empty. A few items remained, including a box of pasta and assorted canned vegetables.

“Donations have really slowed down,” Owner Kelli Martin said. She runs the pantry along with her husband, Charles. Both say there’s been an increase in people coming to get food, but there hasn’t been enough donation or availability to keep up with the demand.

They and other pantries, including Loaves and Fish out of the First United Methodist Church, have seen an influx in people looking for help. With inflation continuing to rise, and recession becoming a growing concern, coordinators like Bill Wuthric of Loaves and Bread are concerned a food shortage is in the future.

“Along with shortages of everything else, there may be a food shortage,” Wuthric said. “We’re seeing a lot more people coming through for food, because it’s harder for them to make ends meet.”

They rely on help from the community, as well as banks like the Midwest Food Bank to help supply their missions. Even the food bank is seeing less in donations.

Midwest Food banks gets charitable contributions from manufacturers and distributors who have excess supply they’re willing to give away. But, there’s less and less product those manufacturers are willing to part with, especially as they are able to produce less and consumer demand goes up.

“Not only do we have to make up what we don’t get through donations, we have to make up the higher demand as well ‚” Executive Director of Midwest Food Bank Peoria Monica Scheur said. “It’s just layer upon layer of trying to bring more food in so we can get more food out.”

Right now, the food bank is good on supply, she said. They recently distributed to over 300 pantries, most of which are reporting more demand. Some people who never needed a food pantry before are relying on them to make ends meet, Scheur said.

As less charitable donations come in, the bank has to make their own purchases of food. For them, it isn’t a simple trip to the grocery store. They order food by the truckload, in massive freighters. That sets off a chain reaction that involves supply chain issues, trucker shortages and rising shipping costs.

Without donations to make up the gap, that’s a cost they have to pay, Scheur said. She estimates they’ll buy twice as much food they did in the year previous.

Further down the food chain, the Porch Pantry is still hoping to get donations from the community to help stock the porch.

“If you have more than you need to be able to share... we don’t want anyone to be hungry,” Martin said. “Access to food is a human right.”

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