Inflation hits home: Metro Detroit food banks see increased demand as food prices rise

Originally posted on WXYZ Detroit

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Every Wednesday at Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, you’ll find volunteers with Forgotten Harvest busy packing grocery carts full of food. In recent weeks, the line to receive that food has only gotten longer.

“For the last three weeks, it has been really long and packed up here,” said Detroit resident Cathlee Fountain, who comes weekly to pick up food. “If you up here late, you might not get everything.”

Even on a gloomy day, people were lined up well before distribution began. Shenetha Collins waited in line for over two hours to grab food for herself and neighbors in need.

“It’s hard out here for everyone,” Collins said. “We just try to help people and be blessed.”

Collins noted the rising prices of food have been a challenge, straining budgets that were already tight.

“Everything is going up, and it’s hard,” Collins said. “It’s a struggle. I’m not going to sit up here and tell everyone that it’s not.”

“We have definitely seen an impact at our pantries and our distributions,” said Kelli Kaschimer, director of Volunteer and Client Services at Forgotten Harvest. “Lines are getting longer and the needs are getting greater.”

The added demand is nothing new for the staff at Forgotten Harvest since the pandemic has already increased need for nearly two years. Within the last month, it seems to have increased again.

“There’s a lot of different reasons,” Kaschimer said. “We know that there is an increase in the cost of food, there’s some food shortages, there’s an increase in the cost of fuel… just the average daily living costs are going up.”

Gleaners Community Food Bank is also reporting increased demand over the last month.

“We’re seeing a noticeable uptick in the need across our partner network and our community mobiles,” said Stacy Avrill, vice president of Community Giving at Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Avrill says some of their partners have seen a 10% to 12% increase in need, while the demand at their mobile sites was up over 40% in March.

“Last month, our mobile distributions served 13,000 households,” Avrill said. “We had been serving an average of 9,000 a month for the past six months.”

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, prices at the grocery store were up 8.6% compared to the same time last year. The department predicts prices will rise another 4.5% to 5.5% throughout the year.

“You’d have to go back to the late 1970s and early 1980s to see something comparable,” said Daniil Manaenkov, head of National Economic Forecasting at the University of Michigan’s RSQE.

Manaenkov says right now, the rising prices aren’t going down, and it’s hurting certain populations more than others.

“The inflation effects are very, very dependent on where you are on the income distribution,” Manaenkov said. “They’re going to hit a lot harder at the lower end of income distribution.”

Rain or shine, local food pantries will continue their work helping families get by. Meanwhile, the families receiving help, will continue to be thankful.

“It helps out to get us through the month,” Fountain said.

“I appreciate anything anyone gives us,” Collins added. “You never know how God’s going to bless you.”

Both Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest have different distribution sites each day. You can find lists on the Gleaners Mobile Distribution Events page and Forgotten Harvest Find Food website.