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Food inflation is impacting food pantries as they prepare for the holiday season

Paul's Pantry
Posted at 1:45 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 14:45:50-05

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — With the holidays approaching, local food pantries are expecting to see more visitors as food inflation is causing the prices of food to spike. 

Craig Robbins, the executive director of Paul’s Pantry, says that food inflation has made it a challenge for the pantry to purchase food for distribution.

"We’re trying to pick and choose different things to purchase wherever we can find the best price whether it be locally, which we prefer, or nationally,” Robbins said.
Paul’s Pantry distributes twelve thousand pounds of food everyday five days a week. The pantry serves over one hundred households each day. During the holidays, Robbins says that number can double.

“We could go up to 175 real easy. We’ve had years where it’s been close to 300,” Robbins said.

But this year, preparing for the holidays has been especially challenging with food inflation on the rise. 

“Spending on food at home is up 20% in August 2021 versus January 2020," said Tim Smeeding, a UW Madison professor of public affairs and economics. "Wisconsin’s a little bit better. Our food prices rose about 5% from last year.”

Smeeding says food inflation is being driven by supply chain issues and the ongoing workers shortage. Government assistance like increasing the value of food share and the child tax credit have helped counteract food inflation, but food pantries and food banks continue to play a crucial role in fighting hunger.

“The child tax credit is now up for renewal," Smeeding said. "It actually ends in 2021 unless it’s renewed but the build back better budget has it continuing for at least another year at it’s current rate.” 

While food inflation is making it difficult for Paul’s Pantry to stock up for the holidays, the pantry is also in need of volunteers. Robbins says the pantry’s volunteer base has fallen since the start of the pandemic.

“During COVID we saw a drop of 12,000 hours the first year and all together now 18,000 volunteer hours," Robbins said. "It’s been pretty tough on our staff.” 

As the pantry prepares to serve more households, they’re asking for the community’s support. 

“We need food, funds, and volunteers, those are the three things that make Paul’s pantry work," Robbins said. "Without one of them it would collapse."