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'We're really tired' Local food banks continue to struggle with higher food costs and cancelled orders

Central State University’s mobile market in partnership with the Dayton Foodbank, Inc.
Alejandro Figueroa
Central State University’s mobile market in partnership with the Dayton Foodbank, Inc.

Ohio food banks are struggling to keep up with supply shortages and rising food costs. The state has had over 275 federal food trucks canceled, food banks are spending more with a limited budget and donations have gone down.

Ohio’s network of Feeding America food banks receive truckloads of food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

Through the program, the USDA purchases a variety of foods and distributes it to different organizations across the country. But right now, manufacturers can’t meet the demand and hundreds of orders have been canceled.

In the last month the Dayton Foodbank, Inc. has had 10 orders canceled. Lauren Tappel with the food bank said it’s not unusual to have a truck canceled, but the rate that it’s been happening is not typical.

“To kind of compensate for the fact that the product is not getting here on time or not getting here at all, we have to then fill that gap with food that we purchased ourselves wholesale,” Tappel said. “ And we're having to purchase more and it's costing twice as much as it did in the past.”

That wholesale cost has gone from about $0.42 a pound a year ago to $1.04, according to a state of hunger report by the Ohio Association of Food Banks.

Meanwhile some food banks across Ohio have reported low food supplies, some have about two weeks worth of food when typically food banks have about 3-6 months of supplies.

The number of people in need of food hasn’t decreased much either, last week, the Dayton Foodbank served nearly 1,500 families at a mass food distribution at the University of Dayton stadium parking lot.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, said the association is running out of options and is asking the state for an extra $50 million from its American Rescue Plan Act fund.

“We're really tired. And we're not miracle workers. I don't have a magic wand to make food materialize. I don't have a blank check that I can continue to buy food without any money to back it up. And when the food's gone, the food's gone.” Hamler-Fugitt said.

Tappel said the food bank in Dayton typically projects to spend about $500,000-$600,000 on wholesale food purchases for a single year. This year alone its spent $1.2 million on wholesale purchases

She added the food bank still has plenty of food, although the variety might be limited. The food bank is keeping an eye on any changes to its food supplies although there’s no plans to make any changes for now.

“We're just continually monitoring everything. And if we need to make difficult choices, we will have that conversation. But right now, it's not something that we, at least at the food bank, have to have to make right now.” Tappel said.

For more information on where to find food assistance you can check out the Montgomery County Food Equity Coalition food referral guide. It lists local organizations providing free food, resources on how to apply for SNAP or WIC and who can help you and resources for senior nutrition programs.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943