Food pantries across the Ozarks taking a hit from inflation and supply shortages

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 9:35 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 7:52 AM CDT
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CHRISTIAN COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - Food pantries across the Ozarks are starting to feel the financial pinch of supply shortages and rising prices.

Least of These, Inc. in Ozark serves more than 950 families each month.

“I feel like we’ve been in emergency response mode for two years now,” said Least of These, Inc. Executive Director Kristy Carter. “We’re continuing to figure out what can we continue to offer the families that we’re serving, how much food can we continue to provide for them, and how are we able to sustain that as an organization?”

The pantry receives food donations from various partner organizations, but lately, it has had to foot quite a bit of the bill on its own.

“They’re [supplies] not available to the food bank, and then they’re not available from the food bank to us,” Carter described. “That’s something we’re attributing to food costs and shortages.”

Carter said the pantry cannot get some food items, not because the food is unavailable, but because production items are not. She said certain things like pasta and saltines have become hard to obtain because manufacturers do not have enough packaging material to make the boxes or other items.

Several shelves in the pantry have become a little more barren than usual.

”The biggest issue we’re having is supply chains,” she said. “With meat and with the bird flu that’s happening right now, chicken obviously is very hard to come by.”

The issue extends well beyond meats. The pantry is practically out of vegetables.

“It may not be worth it to some people to donate their extra produce because it’s going to cost them so much money to get it to the food banks and food pantries,” Carter said. “We are seeing a lot of ripple effects. It’s hard to pinpoint one direct thing. Multiple issues are happening and working together, making it all very difficult.”

Carter said the pantry’s food costs have gone up between 15 to 18%.

On top of these obstacles, she said the need had risen dramatically. Carter said some families are struggling even to pay rent. Many of those prices have gone up significantly in the last several months.

”The higher food costs, the higher gas prices and all of those things, it’s no wonder why our numbers are crazy right now,” Carter said. “That’s why people are in so much need, and I think that’s going to continue to increase.”

Carter said the pantry is also seeing a rise in the number of children and teenagers needing food.

“That scares us a little bit as we’re heading into summer,” she said. “Those kiddos are going to be home from school and will need food. So we’re kind of preparing for that the best we can.”

The pantry has also seen an increase in seniors requiring assistance.

“It’s just almost impossible for many of these seniors to live on their social security,” Carter said.

While Least of These food pantry serves more than 950 families, it receives between 15 and 20 calls a day from other families looking to sign up.

”I have a really hard time scaling back when families are already scaling back,” Carter said. “When families come to us and need food, the last thing I want to do is pull back on what we’re giving them.”

Least of These, Inc. is developing plans to help tackle these challenges. The pantry said it is still accepting new requests from families and will continue to do so.

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