MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — With inflation hitting a 40-year high in March, price hikes in food and gas are impacting Alabamians in need especially hard.
The Montgomery Area Food Bank helps thousands put food on the table, but recently inflation and the pandemic have made that harder, according to Communications Director Al Bloom.
“More people are having less buying power, which means that more people are food insecure because they’re making tradeoffs,” Bloom said.
The food bank serves 35 counties, feeding between 330,000 and 340,000 people every year. Bloom says they rely on retail grocery donations to stock the shelves. But with supply chain problems, they haven’t always been able to get shipments, having to spend money on food that usually goes toward operating costs.
“During the height of the pandemic when we had 300,000 or 400,000 additional unemployment claims, we spent over a million dollars in food,” Bloom said.
With more people in need, fewer volunteers, and consumer prices at their highest in decades, Co-founder of Alabama Childhood Food Solutions Jim Jones is asking for help.
“It’s almost humorous, I go around just like this asking all of my friends and neighbors and churches and anyone I see, asking, ‘Can you help us feed those who are food insecure in central Alabama?'” Jones said.
Jones’s nonprofit serves seven counties in central Alabama, primarily focused on children and families. He says he’s seen a 22% increase in overall operating costs.
“We had this supplier from Chicago call us and say we will see a 30% increase before the first of July this year,” Jones said.
It’s not just food costs making a dent. Those with the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama say transportation is also expensive.
“We put nine trucks on the road every day delivering food, so that has affected what we have to pay for gas, so it’s kind of hurting all around,” Interim Executive Director Nicole Williams said.
The USDA says to expect more increases coming, especially with poultry and eggs, in part because of a recent outbreak of bird flu.