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Food banks in the U.S. are feeling the pinch of inflation


Food banks in the U.S. are feeling the pinch of inflation. The rising cost of groceries is forcing more people to seek help and making it more expensive for food banks to keep their shelves stocked. Ekta Prakash says some are having to cut back. She's the CEO of CAPI, a Minnesota nonprofit that serves immigrants and refugees in the Twin Cities.

EKTA PRAKASH: If we were giving, like, two bags of bread, now we will give one bag of bread. If we're giving 20 lbs. of rice, now we are going to give only 10 lbs. of rice. So the poundage of food is also reducing.

MARTÍNEZ: Prakash says her organization is struggling to keep up with the growing demand.

PRAKASH: Every week we are seeing eight to 10 new enrollments at our food shelf. I think about, how are we going to cover the cost of food? And I remember there were days on Friday we used to have extra food - we'll do a bonus Friday. But not anymore.

MARTÍNEZ: Food banks are facing shortages even as overall giving has stayed pretty consistent, according to Blackbaud Institute, a group that tracks philanthropy. Again, you can blame inflation. The money just isn't going as far. Lucie Leblois is still trying to make the best of it as she sets up for distribution. She's one of the founders of the D.C. Food Project.

LUCIE LEBLOIS: That's the produce. We organize everything by numbers. We have very specific numbers per school. Our volunteers come, we pack cars and everyone goes.

MARTÍNEZ: She says fundraising has dropped since the beginning of the pandemic.

LEBLOIS: Everyone was hoping and wanting to help if they could, and so we were able to raise money as fast as we were spending it.

MARTÍNEZ: And there are many organizations competing for donations.

LEBLOIS: People, even if they're generous, may want to donate to other causes. I think the food insecurity story was a really big one during the pandemic, and unfortunately, it still exists. And in fact, it's worse than before the pandemic. But the fundraising piece of it is challenging.

MARTÍNEZ: For some food banks, this holiday season has been one of the most challenging, as the need in the community is as high as it was during the worst moments of the pandemic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.