The higher costs, coupled with lower inventory and labor shortages, mean that families who relied on food banks – especially going into Thanksgiving and Christmas – may get smaller servings or substitutions.
Donated food is also more expensive to move because transportation costs have increased, and bottlenecks at factories and ports make it difficult to get goods of all kinds.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland is spending an extra $60,000 a month on food. Combined with increased demand, it is now shelling out $1 million a month to distribute 4.5 million pounds of food, Michael Altfest, the Oakland food bank's director of community engagement, told the Associated Press.
The cost of canned green beans and peaches is up nearly 9% for them, Altfest said; canned tuna and frozen tilapia are up more than 6%; and a case of 5-pound frozen chickens for holiday tables is up 13%. The price for dry oatmeal has climbed 17%.
Bryan Nichols, vice president of sales for Transnational Foods Inc., which delivers to more than 100 food banks associated with Feeding America, told the AP that canned foods from Asia have been stuck overseas because of a lack of shipping container space.
"An average container coming from Asia prior to COVID would cost about $4,000. Today, that same container is about $18,000," he said.
At the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado in Colorado Springs, CEO Lynne Telford tells AP that the cost for a truckload of peanut butter — 40,000 pounds – has soared 80% from June 2019 to $51,000 in August. Mac and cheese is up 19% from a year ago and the wholesale cost of ground beef has increased 5% in three months.
Alameda County Community Food Bank says it is set for Thanksgiving, with cases of canned cranberry and boxes of mashed potatoes among items stacked in its expanded warehouse. Food resourcing director Wilken Louie ordered eight truckloads of frozen 5-pound chickens —which translates into more than 60,000 birds— to give away free, as well as half-turkeys available at cost.
According to the Labor Department, the consumer price index climbed 6.2% year over year in October, making the largest annual gain since November 1990. Prices rose 0.9% month over month.
Fox Business’ Jonathan Garber and The Associated Press contributed to this story.