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Inflation issues impacting food banks in Northeast Ohio

Food is among the biggest drivers of inflation, up 9.4 percent over a year ago according to the Consumer Price Index.

CLEVELAND — It's hard to keep talking about inflation, but it's impossible to ignore. This week's data showed food prices are up nearly 10 percent from a year ago.

At the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB), the hurt keeps piling on. “The pandemic being so long and drawn out as well as the rising food and fuel costs. It's really turning into a perfect storm,” said Karen Pozna. Pozna serves as Director of Communications at the food bank.

GCFB has seen increased demand since March of 2020. That’s when the muni lot distributions began each Thursday. They never expected two years later to still be meeting new families there, at the same time as it's harder and more expensive to supply the food they need.

“Families are really feeling the pinch, as well as seniors, too,” said Pozna. “There are so many people who live paycheck to paycheck and one thing can just really throw them into a tailspin.”

Food is among the biggest drivers of inflation, up 9.4 percent over a year ago according to the Consumer Price Index. That adds up to a few hundred dollars more each month. “It doesn't seem like there's really an end in sight,” she said. 

Summer always comes with its own concerns, as kids who receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch at school, are out for break. “It's a really critical time for us to be able to make sure that we have the food that we need, to be able to provide all these people in need,” said Pozna. 

On the supply side, Greater Cleveland Food Bank is seeing an increase in expenses upwards of 25 percent -- combining food and fuel costs. It’s changed the math on the support they can provide. 

“It used to be $1 could help provide four meals, but because of our rising expenses, we are now able to provide three meals for every dollar donated,” Pozna added. “We are as planful as possible as we can be. But you know, we’ve been hit by inflation as well and by supply chain issues as well. So, you know, we are dealing with that just as everyone else is.”

It's often hard for families to make that first call for help. If you are new to this need, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank Help Center can walk you through all the resources available to you. Call 216-738-2067, Monday through Friday.

“We just want to make sure that folks understand that, that there is some help out there and that they are welcome to reach out,” she said. 

Conversely, if you are in a position to help, it's more important than ever. Donations are useful, as are volunteers. Pozna says it takes 100 volunteers minimum each Thursday to distribute food at the Cleveland Municipal Lot, as well as hundreds more throughout the week.

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