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Food banks face inflation struggles with surging demand: ‘Never seen anything like this’

·2 min read

Despite providing emergency relief for families during the Great Recession and Hurricane Sandy disaster, one New Jersey food bank says they’ve never spent more money to feed so many people whose pocketbooks have been hurt by inflation.

"The stories are the same," Community FoodBank of New Jersey president Carlos Rodriguez told FOX Business’ Lydia Hu Friday. "It's just much more expensive to fill up their tank, to go to work or to drop [kids] to go to school. And then, of course, when they go to the grocery store, they get hit with another high cost."

According to Rodriguez, the nonprofit food bank is spending 40% more to purchase the same amount of supplies as last year, in which they served 85 million meals.

But Rodriguez fears that the organization will be forced to stretch donations through the remainder of 2022 due to a 20% increase in meal recipients.

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"Not since the Great Recession, not through Sandy, where I had the opportunity to serve, we've never seen anything like this," Rodriguez said.

Food banks across the country are feeling a similar effect as high inflation has both placed an increased financial burden on poor families and made it more difficult for food pantries to provide relief to such families, several charities told Fox Business. Higher prices combined with expiring pandemic benefits and fewer donations have led to soaring demand that the groups expect to remain high in the near term.

"Meals on Wheels America is seeing a higher demand on the ground and we expect demand to remain high," Jenny Young, a spokesperson for Meals on Wheels America, previously told Fox Business in an email. "According to our latest survey of local Meals on Wheels programs, 8 out of 10 are still serving more home-delivered meals and seniors than prior to the pandemic."

Hu mentioned in her report that some cities have faced "exploding" demand increases, like Phoenix, Arizona, with a 78% increase and Alameda County, California feeding 58.4% more people.

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The Community FoodBank of New Jersey worries it could become "overwhelmed" as the latest economic data signals the U.S. economy is entering a recession.

A White House official previously told FOX Business that inflation remains the president's top priority and noted that the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped from 10.2% to 3.6% since he took office. The official pointed to programs like a $500 million effort to lower fertilizer costs that the administration has pushed to lower food prices and blamed the high prices on supply chain disruptions and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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FOX Business’ Thomas Catenacci and The Associated Press contributed to this report.