(NEW YORK) — As families across the nation prepare for the holiday season, some food banks across the United States dedicated to fighting hunger say they are experiencing an increase in demand following the end of pandemic-era SNAP benefits, an increase in inflation, and other regional factors.
Caroline De La Fuente helps care for her 16 grandchildren while their parents work to make ends meet and is one of the thousands of people who, according to data, depend on food banks. She told ABC News that without the San Antonio Food Bank, her family and others in the community wouldn’t eat.
“A lot of people would go hungry,” she said. “Kids would go hungry at night. People would not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.”
During the pandemic, states provided Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households with extra pandemic-related benefits called emergency allotments, making it easier for families to put food on the table. Those measures ended in March, putting a strain on many households.
De La Fuente said her family’s SNAP benefits were cut, but other factors such as rising prices make it harder for her family to make ends meet.
“The price of food has gone up tremendously,” she said. “The budget only goes so far when prices are going up, up, up and pay is not going up like that.”
Radha Muthiah, CEO of Capital Area Food Bank, which services the greater Washington, D.C., area, said it’s important not to forget about those who are food insecure.
Muthiah told ABC News that while sometimes there are seasonal surges in demand, this year the Capital Area Food Bank has experienced a much higher demand than they initially projected.
“We’re in November, and we have consistently been distributing about 30 to 35% more than what we had targeted each month,” she said.
Michael Flood, CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, told ABC News it serves around 900,000 people a month, which is more than it did several months ago.
He said that this year LA Regional Food Bank has had to augment its food supply by purchasing the food itself due to that increased amount, which can be challenging.
“When we go to the food purchase side, it’s a much more expensive proposition and much more difficult to kind of continue that on a sustainable level because we’re nonprofit,” he said.
Eric Cooper, CEO and president of the San Antonio Food Bank, which services roughly 105,000 people a week and is part of Feeding America, echoed a lot of what other food bank leaders told ABC News.
“The demand that we’re seeing today is similar to the demand … at the peak of the pandemic,” he said.
Cooper said it’s been that way for over a year, largely due to the economy and inflation.
Janis Robinson, vice president of Institutions and Partnerships at Food Bank for New York City, said the influx of migrants into the city has added to the food banks’ demand.
“So a number of our pantries and soup kitchens have faced an increase as a result of the migrant population needing support as well,” she said.
Robinson explained that while the food banks are appreciative of the community support throughout the holidays, the issue is one that requires year-long attention.
“We do want to remind our public and our donors that hunger is not just something that happens within the holidays. It’s certainly year-round,” she said.
De La Fuente said her family volunteers at the food bank’s local garden and they are grateful for the opportunities the food bank has been able to provide.
“The food bank gives so much to this community, and if it wasn’t for them a lot of people would be struggling so tremendously,” she said.
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