COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Consumers everywhere can see the effects of inflation at the grocery store. Local food pantries are also feeling its effects — especially as the holiday season approaches.
At several Columbus-area food pantries, rising food and living costs has caused demand for assistance to soar. Brendan Johnston, executive director of the Gahanna Residents in Need food pantry, said the community’s need has outpaced even higher-than-normal pandemic levels.
“This is the highest number of registered families we’ve had. We’re 395, we’re totally expecting to hit 400,” said Johnston.
The pantry has served Gahanna families for 50 years, Johnston said. This year, however, the pantry has had to take unprecedented steps to meet the community’s food needs, including buying out of pocket to keep the pantry stocked.
“We are purchasing way more than we ever have to help with Thanksgiving,” Johnston said. She said the pantry’s food budget has increased by about $25,000 this year — and she expects it to keep rising.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks agreed that demand has increased, while donations are increasingly harder to come by.
“We’re seeing a decline in donations across the board both from our food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director Ohio Association of Foodbanks. She said the organization, which oversees 12 Ohio foodbanks, will request $50 million in emergency funding from the state to keep pantries stocked.
A spokesperson with the Mid-Ohio Food Collective said that demand has increased by 25% in 2022, with many people seeking food assistance for the first time.
“Food insecurity has reached higher levels in 2022 than we experienced during the height of the pandemic,” the spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, we expect this trend to continue through the holiday season.”
Johnston says it’s thanks to continued donations they’ve been able to make this work.
“I hope you continue to see the value that you are feeding your neighbors literally and this could be anyone at any given time,” said Johnston, speaking to the donors and community members.