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Higher food costs become new pandemic challenge this Thanksgiving

Local food banks are also feeling the squeeze, just like the people they serve

PARMA, Ohio — The cars slowly moved in a line outside of Parma Senior High School as volunteers with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank filled each car with meals for a family of four.

It was Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry's second annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, and this year -- 1,000 families were getting a helping hand, up from 300 last year.

"Folks are hurting," said Charles Smialek, Superintendent for the Parma City School District. "A lot of folks haven't returned back to work, or are working different jobs like than they had in the past, and so, it's great to be able to help out as much as possible," said Smialek.

And local food banks are feeling the squeeze, just like the people that they serve. Higher food costs are a new challenge for families still struggling in the pandemic.

"We have never been busier since the last year and a half since the pandemic hit," said Kristin Warzocha, of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Last year, as people gathered in smaller numbers, Thanksgiving prices were the cheapest in a decade. But this year, "we're sitting in almost a perfect storm of multiple issues at one time within the food night system," said Dr. Trey Malone, a food economist from Michigan State University.

Transportation costs, labor shortages, and inflation mean the cost of your Thanksgiving feast could hit new highs. Last year, a frozen whole turkey cost an average of $1.12 per pound, according to the USDA. We checked prices at a Cleveland-area Giant Eagle, where a frozen Butterball turkey cost $1.69 per pound. That means you'll be paying $8.55 more for a 15-pound bird.

Meanwhile, Green Giant green beans were selling for about $0.95 per can last year. At a Walmart in Cleveland, we found the same brand going for $1.18 per can, which is 25-percent more compared to prices found last year. Fan-favorite canned cranberry sauce will cost you more too, because those cans are made of steel, and the price of which is up more than 200-percent.

Still, what hasn't changed is the promise from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, even when the need is greater than before.

"I'd like to remind everyone that for every dollar donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, we can help provide four nutritious meals," said spokesperson Karen Ponza.

"So your donation goes a long way," said Ponza. 

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