The National - News
LEAN TIMES AT THANKSGIVING FOR AMERICA’S POOR AS FOOD PRICES RISE
▶ Food banks report bare shelves as donations of groceries dry up
The last week of every month is always difficult for Leonard Edwards, 61, a veteran who lives on a fixed income of $1,500 in the Washington area.
At the best of times, he barely has anything left in the bank at the end of the month.
Now, with rocketing prices in supermarkets, it has become even more difficult for him to meet his household needs.
“Everything is much higher,” Mr Edwards told The National.
“I used to walk out of the store ... after spending $50, I had five bags of groceries. Now, I’ll spend $50 and have one bag.”
Mr Edwards relies on Bread for the City, a food bank in Washington’s Shaw district, to keep food on the table.
“That last week of the month is always the tightest week, and with Bread for the City’s help, I’m able to continuously eat fresh produce and fruit throughout the month,” Mr Edwards said.
But the rising cost of food is eating away at Bread for the City’s ability to help.
“We are not getting as many food donations from people, so that has had a huge impact,” said Kenrick Thomas, communications and events manager at the food bank.
“We are also paying a lot more now for food, which has also had an impact on our programme.”
Every year during the holidays, Bread for the City offers people a $75 debit card to help pay for meals, although this amount does not go as far as it used to.
And the nation’s capital is not the only place experiencing the squeeze. In Los Angeles, the Regional Food Bank reported that the number of people it serves tripled to more 900,000 since the coronavirus pandemic began.
This means about 10 per cent of the population of Los Angeles County is now relying on the food bank’s help every month.
The LA Regional Food Bank has been able to stave off the effects of rising prices thanks to its proximity to California’s bountiful farms.
“Most of our food donations are from farmers and growers, and wholesalers and distributors,” said David May, its director of communications.
But many food banks in the US do not have that luxury and are being stretched to the limit.
This Thanksgiving is one of the most expensive on record, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported, and there are several factors at play.
“These include dramatic disruptions to the US economy and supply chains over the past 20 months, inflationary pressure throughout the economy, difficulty in predicting demand during the Covid-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat,” said Veronica Nigh, senior economist at the bureau.
The cost for a 7-kilogram turkey this year is about $24 – a 24 per cent rise from last year.
However, the cost will not deter Mr Edwards, who said he was looking forward to cooking a turkey, but he acknowledged he will have to shop carefully.
“I don’t eat what I want to eat. I eat what they put on sale,” he said.
This is the new reality for millions of Americans, and if inflation keeps rising many more will face the same difficult choices.
I used to walk out of the store ... after spending $50, I had five bags of groceries. Now, I’ll spend $50 and have one bag LEONARD EDWARDS
Food bank user