Rising Inflation Leads to Greater Need at Food Pantries

As temperatures begin to cool and leaves begin to fall many people start to look forward to autumn and winter. But for many, the colder months can be stressful as the cost of everyday living goes up with colder temperatures.

Heating costs usually go up during this time of year, if you use natural gas to heat your home, experts are saying natural gas prices are expected to be higher than normal.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a government agency that collects, analyzes and disseminates independent statistics and analysis says to expect higher-than-average natural gas prices globally as demand is up and inventory is low.

Add rising heating costs to rising food prices and it makes for a bleak winter for those who struggle with food insecurity. 

In Loudoun County between 15,000 and 17,000 people could be food insecure. Meaning they might not have enough money to get groceries before they get their next paycheck or they don’t have enough healthy food to feed their family or they are maybe making hard decisions like paying their rent or mortgage or over buying food, according to Loudoun Hunger Relief President and CEO Jennifer Montgomery. 

September is Hunger Action Month-a month long campaign started by Feeding America to bring people together to end hunger. Loudoun Hunger Relief has hosted events, like the empty bowl event on Sept. 15 as well as provide educational and volunteer opportunities all month long. 

Montgomery said September is a great month to bring attention to the issue but pointed out people are hungry every month.

“The goal is to come together and advocate and find ways to help year-round. People have to eat every day and making sure people have access to nutritious foods is important every day at every meal,” said Montgomery. 

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank CEO, Michael McKee agrees and believes getting the word out in September can help keep the awareness going strong through the colder months.

“This time of year, you see a seasonal spike in demand because in the less tempered parts of country the cost of everything goes up, including heating and fuel. The financial demands on those who are financially insecure skyrocket through the winter months,” said McKee. 

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank serves 25 counties on both sides of the Blue Ridge mountains. They are the largest organization working to relieve hunger in western and central Virginia, serving over 12,000 square miles and working with more than 400 community partners like Loudoun Hunger Relief.  

Stats from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank show food costs are up 11.4%, the biggest annual increase since 1979. As food prices continue to rise, more people are turning to the Food Bank for help. Single mothers represent the largest share of adults using food assistance programs in the region. Single moms are often earning lower wages while dealing with heighted childcare costs and rising food costs. 

Both McKee and Montgomery have said they have seen first-hand how inflation is affecting families and leading to greater needs at food banks.

Montgomery said before COVID they helped about 250 families a week. During the height of the pandemic, it jumped to 1,000 families. She said numbers went down as things started to normalize but went up again last spring as inflation rose. She said they now directly help around 700 families a week, about 2,800 people a week. She said that doesn’t include the food they give to other programs.

“Inflation is a challenge; food prices continue to rise faster than other things. If you were already living paycheck to paycheck add in high gas prices and it puts you over the edge. Inflation is affecting everyone some more than others and we are here to help,” said Montgomery. 

McKee said during the pandemic the federal government doubled its amount of food to banks through the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program or TEFAP. But this year they scaled back to their normal assistance.

“But the problem is the numbers of people seeking food assistance are not back to normal. Food is at a higher cost than last year. Staples are 15-30% more expensive,” said Mckee. 

He said they have partnerships with grocery stores both locally and on the corporate level which allows their partners like Loudoun Hunger Relief to directly pick up perishable items like breads, produce, and frozen meats from stores to help those in need offset the effects of inflation.

“But again, we are spending more money to buy food,” said McKee.

He said they have a budget of over $2 million to purchase food but two weeks ago he approved an additional $400,000 to help with costs going into colder weather. 

McKee said about half the population they serve are vulnerable-children and senior citizens. 

He said children need good nutrition because their brains and bodies are developing. He said if they aren’t getting adequate nutrition, they are typically at risk for falling behind in school and potentially continuing the cycle. 

Senior citizens are the other vulnerable population because as we age we are likely to encounter various health problems and good food and nutrition is key to staying healthy. 

He said partnerships between pantries and local growers like the partnership between JK Community Farm and Loudoun Hunger Relief makes a huge impact. 

“It takes all of us leaning into this problem. It takes the local farmer, the community member, volunteers, churches. The reality is food is a community wide problem that affects everyone, every age, religion, color, healthy, disabled, working or not working. It affects all and it takes a community to get involved. In Loudoun, we see this happening,” said McKee. 

Donations of food, money and time are always accepted at most area food pantries. 

If you find yourself needing help, go to www.loudounfeeds.org to find the nearest place to pick up food. 

3 thoughts on “Rising Inflation Leads to Greater Need at Food Pantries

  • 2022-09-21 at 4:55 pm
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    What we need to do is attack inflation at its source. Massive deficit spending by DEMs and money printing by the Federal reserve to cover it caused inflation. What we need is a sound gold-based currency for price stability and to protect savings and investment. Inflation will persist and food banks will proliferate unless we stop the tax and overspend policies that drive inflation. Jennifer Wexton votes in lockstep with this administration’s radical agenda. Vote for Hung CAO and fiscal sanity.

  • 2022-09-21 at 8:35 pm
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    Here’s one helpful factoid: The Biden admnistration has increased food stamp allocations beginning in October. The maximum benefit for a single individual goes from $250 to $281 monthly, due to inflation. I think that’s very nice. I’m not a big fan of Joe Biden. If truth be told, I wince when he speaks. But this was a very nice gesture on the part of the Administration. Welcome to Fall Loudoun!

  • 2022-09-22 at 3:03 pm
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    First and foremost, if you can afford to support a food pantry, in some form, please do so; either directly or through your church’s food support program.

    Every time I see a picture of the current head of the Federal Reserve, I am reminded of Mr. James J. Angleton (https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/171663), whose paranoia and obsession with Soviet moles nearly destroyed the CIA.

    Mr. Jerome Powell is so obsessed with bringing down inflation that his actions may totally destroy the US economy. No right-thinking person likes high inflation; however, we have the odd situation of an excellent job market and consumers who are willing to spend despite high prices. Mr. Powell has commented that he has no problem destroying job growth and bringing pain to American families if it brings down inflation. His thinking reminds me of Mr. Angleton who, after being hornswoggled by the Soviet double agent Kim Philby, was so determined to find the mole that didn’t exist in the CIA that he harmed the careers of many fine CIA case officers.

    Like Mr. Angleton, Mr. Powell is the product of Ivy League privilege and apparently worships at the altar of Mr. Paul Volcker who caused unemployment to skyrocket to 10.8%, the highest since the Great Depression when he was the Fed Chair.

    Candidly, if Mr. Powell causes serious harm to employment which is his goal, the Nation hasn’t gained anything. The taxpayers who remain on the job will have to support more unemployed people which is even more harmful than inflation. Better to have people working and contributing than being on the dole. Every business in the local area is advertising for workers. After all, if we had 70,000 more truck drivers and longshoremen on the job, many of our supply chain issues would be subsiding. That said, Mr. Powell’s actions could easily lead us into a very deep recession.

    I can’t recall the last government employee who deserved to be removed from his position more than Mr. Powell. Unfortunately, under the Federal Reserve Act, the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (aka Fed Chair) can only be removed for “cause,” a term that courts have historically interpreted as requiring “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office” and no Fed Chair has ever been removed despite the damage they’ve done to the US economy. Given Mr. Powell’s desire to emulate Mr. Volcker despite the fact we are still recovering from two years of COVID-19, our entire situation will get a whole lot worse before it gets even remotely better. President Biden should have never nominated Mr. Powell for a second four-year term.

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