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Food banks are struggling to provide relief to Americans in need as demand and costs simultaneously skyrocket, according to the head of Georgia’s largest food bank, who urged the government to provide more help.
“It is a very humbling moment when you encounter someone who is fearful,” Atlanta Community Food Bank President and CEO Kyle Waide told Fox News. “They cannot provide for their family. We see that every day.”
“They’re having to choose between buying food or paying for their utility bill,” Waide continued. “Those kinds of choices are just putting families at a real bind.”
Inflation hit a 40-year high in June at 9.1%, but food prices increased by 10.4%, according to the Department of Labor. Food banks nationwide have seen long lines as demand surges.
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“It’s kind of a perfect storm of higher demand, higher cost to operate, less federal support,” Waide said. “That’s really putting a lot of pressure on food banks, food pantries across the country.”
Government assistance to combat food insecurity is declining, according to Waide. Funding for federal programs, like The Emergency Food Assistance Program, are reverting to pre-pandemic levels that don’t match the current demand.
“We need the [United States Department of Agriculture] and the administration and Congress to deploy more funding to federal commodity programs that provide food to food banks,” Waide said. “We need Washington, Congress, the administration to really find ways to provide more resources to the emergency food network, so that we can get food to people in this moment of crisis.”
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Demand at the Atlanta Community Food Bank decreased in 2021 after Georgians returned to work after the pandemic shutdowns, according to Waide. But the pantry has seen a resurgence this year.
“We’re seeing folks who are turning to food pantries for the first time in their lives,” Waide told Fox News. “The inflationary environment has really put a lot of pressure on them.”
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“These are folks that are used to being on the other side of the line helping to pass out food to people in need rather than being in the line themselves,” Waide added.
One food bank in Phoenix saw a 78% increase compared to last year, serving over 4,000 families at their main distribution center in just one week in June, the Associated Press reported. And in Virginia, one pantry depleted its resources within 90 minutes one day in July, according to NBC News.
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“It’s more complicated and more expensive for us to meet that growing demand,” Waide said. “We’re spending more just to get the same amount of food into our system.”
But increasing food costs aren’t the only heightened cost food banks are facing, according to the Atlanta CEO.
“We see higher fuel costs for our trucks that are on the road, higher costs for our employees as we’re responding to the same wage pressure that other businesses are responding to,” Waide told Fox News. “And this comes at a time when support from the federal government has been declining.”
Thomas Catenacci contributed to this report.