More demand and fewer donations, Tarrant Area Food Bank is facing an emergency food crisis

Record-high inflation is trickling down to food banks. Tarrant Area Food Bank is facing a 22% decline in food donations from grocers.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Across the nation, people’s wallets are hurting.

The stock market was down again on Monday. The cost of gas, food and other necessities keep climbing.

During the month of May, the nation’s inflation rate hit a record-high when the consumer price index reached 8.6%. It’s the nation’s highest inflation rate in 40 years. 

In North Texas, it’s half a percentage higher.

Inflation’s impact is trickling down to the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) in Fort Worth.

On Monday, there were rows of empty shelves at the donation warehouse. Six months ago, shelves were filled from top to bottom.

TAFB CEO Julie Butner told WFAA in her 10 years working with the food bank, she has never seen it so empty.

“It’s very concerning,” Butner said.

Supply chain issues and inflation have led to the shortage in food donations. The food bank relies heavily on donated food from grocers and retailers, and those donations are down 22%.

“Many of the grocery stores are hanging onto food longer before they donate it to us,” Butner said. “Typically have 3 million pounds of food that we have in here, this is less than a million.

Typically, the food bank’s warehouse is stocked with 3 million pounds of donated food to distribute to families. Now, it has less than a third of that amount, with less than one million pounds of food.

TAFB isn’t just struggling against a decline in donated food. Federal funding from the COVID-19 relief fund has expired. Butner said for the first time the food bank has begun tapping into its own funding to buy food — money that wasn’t factored into the annual budget.

The rise in gas prices has also put a strain on the food bank. Fuel costs for running 14 food distribution trucks have doubled, according to Butner. 

Less people are walking through the food bank’s doors to volunteer, and Butner thinks gas prices are part of the reason.

The challenges come as TAFB sees an increase of people in need of food assistance.

“We’re seeing the same number of people that we saw at the height of the pandemic looking for resources and support,” Butner said. “Instead of job loss, people are now faced with just really trying to make the monthly budget stretch.”

TAFB’s highest month of demand was at the height of the pandemic, when the food bank distributed 6.6 pounds of food. Food insecurity is reaching that level again. 

The food bank is on track to distribute 6.2 million pounds of food in the month of June.

Butner said the food bank could use the community’s help in order to continue serving the community. She encourages those who are able to provide monetary donations or volunteer their time to visit the food bank’s website.

While the food bank is struggling, it continues to step up for the community. 

This week, it has planned four food distribution events. Among them is a mobile market event to combat summer hunger, called “Distribution Dinner for Dads.” The event will take place Wednesday, June 15, at Clark Stadium from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“We’re doing the best we can to try to keep up with the demand,” Butner said.

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