‘I Can’t Even Afford Groceries’: U.S. Food Banks Report Growing Numbers of Households Needing Handouts

Nearly half of America’s food banks describe rising numbers of people lining up for handouts, as inflation puts pantry basics out of reach and the Biden administration’s eight-year anti-hunger plan comes unstuck.

Householders across the U.S. told DailyMail.com that eye-watering grocery store prices had pushed them to food pantries for help. Even food bank organizers said inflation was ramping up costs and hampering their ability to assist.

The 40-year inflation rate high of 9.1 percent has put basics from butter to beefsteaks out of reach for many, and undercut President Joe Biden’s bid to end hunger and improve diets and levels of physical activity in the U.S. by 2030.

Pat Young, 64, a retired home care nurse, turned this month to St John’s Bread and Life Program in Brooklyn, New York, as inflation pushed pantry basics beyond her annual disability-benefit income budget of less than $30,000 per year.

‘It really has become a challenge just to eat healthily and get by,’ Young told DailyMail.com.

For Young, weekly packages of milk, juice, corn, turkey, canned fruit, beans and rice are a godsend. Still, high energy bills leave her sitting at home in the dark, without air conditioning in the summer heat, missing her favorite fruity treat — cherries.

‘You’d be surprised how many more people are eligible to use the pantry,’ Young said. ‘Because the economy is so bad, even lots of working people fit into the low socioeconomic bracket.’

She is not alone. Feeding America, a national charity, says 45 percent of food banks have seen an increase in demand during recent months of high inflation, typically with 10 percent more beneficiaries asking for help.

Jilly Stephens, CEO of City Harvest, another New York food bank, said 90 percent of her recipients expected to rely more on handouts this year as inflation pushed even a dozen eggs up in price by more than a dollar.

‘With food costs rising at their fastest rate in decades, we’re seeing many families that were already barely keeping their heads above water are now increasingly and more frequently relying on food pantries,’ Stephens told DailyMail.com.

Ginette Bott, president of Utah Food Bank, said inflation was having as powerful an impact as the Covid-19 pandemic and had ‘stretched our clients’ budgets even tighter’.

A 60 percent nationwide rise in gas prices had doubled her organization’s fuel costs and were effectively ‘squeezing both sides of the emergency food assistance equation’, she added.

The same goes for California, where Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino’s president Carolyn Solar said her organization’s fuel bills had risen from $17,664 in 2021 to $34,460 this year.

As inflation bites, 21 percent of Americans have turned to food banks, according to a Tipp Insights poll this month. About half of respondents were switching to cheaper store brands and giving up costly items like meat.

Nearly a quarter were simply skipping meals altogether.

According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, in the U.S. do not get enough food to live an active, healthy life — a figure from 2020 that many expect to rise on the next update.

Surging food prices come after state governments ended Covid-19 disaster rules that boosted benefits to some 40 million food stamp beneficiaries, and after a Trump era food purchase and distribution scheme wrapped up in 2021.

The Biden administration says it wants to end hunger and improve diets and general health nationwide by 2030 so that fewer people succumb to diabetes, obesity, hypertension and other lifestyle diseases.

The White House did not answer DailyMail.com’s request for comment on growing demand for food pantries.

A White House statement this month spoke of a ‘whole-of-government strategy to end hunger’ and tackle illnesses and plans for a conference on hunger and nutrition, hosted by Biden, to chart a 50-year roadmap to tackle the problem.

The Democrats are touting an inflation-fighting bill of tax reforms and climate funding as a solution to high prices, but it remains unclear whether it will gain enough Senate votes or reduce inflation in the coming months.

Reporting from The Daily Mail.