Virginia food banks are facing a perfect storm of problems. High inflation of daily consumer goods is driving up the cost of food for low-income families, while food banks struggle to overcome supply chain issues to keep their shelves well stocked.
Eddie Oliver, executive director of the Virginia Federation of Food Banks, which oversees seven regional food banks across the state, said that since many pandemic stimulus benefits have expired, the financial reserves built up by low-income families income began to decline.
“As families are squeezed, they are increasingly turning to food banks for help,” Oliver said. “Meanwhile, our operational expenses are increasing. So it’s difficult on many fronts.”
Oliver noted that the best way to support a local food bank is through financial support, which will help them cope with soaring grocery prices. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food prices are expected to increase between 5% and 6% in 2022.
According to Feeding America, nearly a quarter of a million children in Virginia are food insecure, and nearly half of households receiving SNAP benefits have children.
In addition to supply chain issues and inflation, Oliver pointed out that the end of the school semester will also be an aggravating factor in the coming weeks.
“Access to school meals is coming to an end here as schools are about to close for the summer,” observed Oliver. “Meanwhile, we are seeing the highest inflation we have seen in decades, which of course disproportionately impacts low-income families.”
The USDA has extended free school meals to children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the program will end at the end of this school year. The Virginia Poverty Law Center reported that before COVID, more than 460,000 Virginia students received free and discounted school meals daily.
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