DENVER (KDVR) — As the price of groceries increases nationwide, the cost is hitting food banks especially hard.
“We’re seeing an increase in everything from beef to poultry to fresh produce, as well as increases in freight costs,” Food Bank of the Rockies CEO Erin Pulling said.
According to Pulling, beef has gone up 20% and dairy, poultry and pork have increased by 10%. The cost of produce has gone up about 5% on average. While a few extra cents on a bag of carrots, for example, may not seem like a lot, it adds up over the course of millions of meals.
“We’re distributing food to about 800,000 [people] over the course of a year – enough food for 250,000 meals every single day,” Pulling said.
In addition to rising food costs, freight costs have risen too.
“Freight is actually up 55% over where we were a year ago,” Pulling said.
She estimates that Food Bank of the Rockies will spend $1 million in shipping costs alone to get food to their warehouse distribution center in 2022.
“Pre-COVID, Food Bank of the Rockies used to spend about $2 million a year on food,” Pulling said. “Now we are spending just over a million dollars a month on food and freight.”
That works out to a 500% increase in food costs for the food bank. However, there is a third, even more significant driver impacting their budget.
“Most of that increase is due to the increase in need,” Pulling said.
According to Pulling, for every 10 people the organization helped in 2019, they are now helping 15 people get access to food.
“With the end of many federal aid programs, eviction moratoriums as well as student loans coming due, we’re seeing some people even now needing food assistance for the first time ever,” she said.
Pulling said donors have been very generous over the past year and have helped the food bank cover the unexpected increase in costs. “But,” she said, “we’re worried about our ability to maintain this level of service.”
She estimated food insecurity will continue for several months to years following the pandemic.