Back in November, The Open Door’s Executive Director, Jason Viana, spoke with Business Insider about increased food shelf visits and the struggle food shelves are facing trying to keep up with demand.
“More people need help, and it costs us more to help them,” Viana said. Due to increased need and declining donations, The Open Door has spent more money on food in 2022 than any other year in its 13-year history. Mix that with ever-rising inflation and it creates the perfect storm for food shelves.
The Open Door is projected to serve more people in 2023 than ever before – over 20,000 individuals a month. A new facility at 3000 Ames Crossing Road, with a move in early January, will help immensely in the ability to take in more food, store more food and distribute more food. The Open Door will add 25% more on-site pantry appointments and more Mobile Pantry sites allowing for more hunger relief work to be done, but that can’t be achieved without continued, widespread support.
We need your help to feed more people than ever before in 2023, maximize the potential of our new facility, and meet increased need in the new year. Click HERE to donate today and help us end local hunger in Dakota County.
Read the full Business Insider article below.
‘Battle-hardened’ food banks and pantries are already struggling to cope even before the recession finally arrives
Soaring inflation means every household is facing higher costs to keep food on the table and the lights on. Rising prices have struck just as federal aid packages that helped many people stay afloat during the pandemic have ended.
As a result, more households are turning to charities for support — but they’re struggling to keep up with demand.
“Families and food banks are facing a perfect storm,” says Stephanie Sullivan of Food Bank for the Heartland.
Insider spoke to three food aid organizations: Feeding America, the country’s largest nationwide hunger relief charity; Food Bank for the Heartland, which serves Nebraska and Iowa; and the Open Door Food Pantry, which serves Dakota County, Minnesota. They all tell the same story.
Feeding America’s most recent survey found that 60% of US food banks reported an increase in demand.
Katie Fitzgerald, president of Feeding America, told Insider: “Some of our food banks have reported their highest distributions on record — even more than during the height of the pandemic.”
Food prices soared by 10.9% in the past year, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jason Viana, executive director of the Open Door Food Pantry, said: “More people need help, and it costs us more to help them.”
Donations are dropping, as benefactors feel the pinch of inflation, so organizations have to buy more food to make up for the shortfall.
About 43% of Feeding America’s food banks say they’re operating at a deficit this year, meaning they’re dipping into their financial reserves to meet surging demand. “This isn’t sustainable,” said Fitzgerald.
It looks like things are going to get worse. Inflation remains stubbornly high, and a recession within the next year is certain, according to forecasts by Bloomberg Economics.
Feeding America is trying to form partnerships with agricultural groups, especially in the dairy industry, to secure reliable supplies of fresh produce amid economic turmoil.
It is also lobbying Congress to allocate maximum support to the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which funds emergency aid for low-income Americans.
Meanwhile, the Open Door Food Pantry is stepping up its marketing strategy. Director Jason Viana told Insider: “We’re going on the offensive and asking for support. We’ll be more aggressive in our storytelling — both with our donors and with the community at large. We want to make sure that fulfilling people’s basic needs remains front-and-center.”
The Open Door is also bracing for worst-case scenarios, with cutting down on food distribution an “absolute last resort”, Viana said.
Food Bank for the Heartland has strived to diversify and expand its donor portfolio. “We’ve been battle-hardened over the last few years,” Stephanie Sullivan told Insider.
Last year the charity built a USDA-certified clean-room, which means it can process bulk donations of animal-based protein. It is one of just six US food banks to have such a facility, which it calls a “huge step” towards fighting food insecurity.
Volunteer numbers are rising
It’s not entirely bad news, though. Feeding America has “full volunteer centers” because “people are really eager to come back in and be part of the solution,” Fitzgerald told Insider.
Sullivan has a similar story: “In the past year, our volunteers donated 33,000 hours of service to Food Bank for the Heartland — and we saw a 67% increase in the number of first-time volunteers.”
There’s also a silver lining from the pandemic. “The visibility of the charitable food system during the pandemic has helped make people more comfortable turning to us for help,” said Fitzgerald.
One such individual is a “married mom of four” from Indiana, who launched the TikTok account NoShameFoodPantryVisits after the pandemic pushed her into financial difficulty. She does not identify herself in her posts.
After much hesitation, the woman finally paid her local food pantry a visit. “I got in line. I cried. I was embarrassed,” she told Insider. “The people were so kind and told me to come back.”
She now channels her experiences into combating stigma on TikTok: “I wanted others to know it’s okay to ask for help. You don’t need to wait till your power is cut off, your car is taken away, or you’re about to lose your home.”
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