Inflation hits Lowcountry Food Bank

Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 3:14 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2022 at 11:28 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Community Resource Center’s 500 volunteers feed more than 5,000 people a week, but now, as inflation smashes recent records, stretching the already strained budget to maintain the operation is become a major challenge.

“The lines have increased. We have lines now that are bigger than in the middle of the pandemic,” Community Resource Center Executive Director Louis Smith said. “On Wednesday, we had about 300 cars. That is a lot of people, and there is a growing need.”

Year to year, the Community Resource Center has seen a 15 percent increase in operational costs. Smith says that a 15 percent increase means they can help fewer people in need.

“I am telling you right now, we could have gotten more food,” Smith said. “When gas [prices] spiked – to run these trucks, it takes a lot of money.”

It is the same story at the Lowcountry Food Bank, where the Community Resource Center gets much of its food. Brenda Shaw, chief development officer at the Food Bank, says they have seen huge increases in just about everything.

“Inflation has had a significant impact on the Food Bank and food banks all across the country,” Shaw said. “We are seeing about a 40 percent increase in the cost of food across the board. Canned vegetables that we would have bought pre-pandemic, we are paying 75 percent more than we were in 2020 or 2019.”

It is not just the cost of food straining the budget. Shaw says they get food shipped in from all over the country, and the cost of transportation is adding up and not just because of the cost of fuel.

“The cost of shipping is really hurting us,” Shaw said. “We’re also seeing a decrease across the country in drivers. Many independent truckers are just getting out of the business because they can’t cover their costs.”

It is a double whammy for groups trying to feed those in need. Costs are going up for the organizations all while the number of those needing their services increases as well. Shaw says in January, their onsite pantry served 353 people. This month they have already served more than 500.

“It [inflation] is affecting the types of foods we can buy but we are still serving everyone that needs to be served,” Shaw said. “We are not seeing the variety. Some things have become cost prohibitive.”

Shaw says they are particularly concerned about when the school year starts and students will be once again required to pay for their own lunches. For the last two years, the USDA has picked up the tab so all students could eat for free. However, that changes this year as COVID-relief money dries up.

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