Food shelves struggle with increased demand, lack of supply

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — As record high inflation and gas prices take a toll of Minnesota families, food shelves are preparing for what could be the hungriest summer yet.

Second Harvest Heartland reports more than two-thirds of Minnesota’s food shelves are already seeing or expect to see increased visits this summer. Some are already reporting increases of 30% or more.

“We need just about everything,” Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP) volunteer Ollie Stocker said.

The Bloomington-based food pantry is struggling to keep the shelves full of food as prices go up and donations from individuals and corporations fall.

“Grocery stores are not able to buy all these products in bulk like they usually had, that means produce donations to our food partners are a lot less, because of inflation, and there’s not drivers on the road to get the food to them, so we are seeing that crunch,” VEAP marketing and digital manager Caley Long said.

Compared to the second half of 2021, cumulatively in 2022 VEAP is seeing about 18% more requests for food pantry appointments. With a daily capacity of 145 people, appointments are being scheduled two days out rather than same-day availability.

“In terms of government support, a lot of the pandemic programs are being tapered off or are gone, so that’s very much impacted our ability to get food to people,” Long said.

In Columbia Heights, Linda Armstrong is among the newcomers to Southern Anoka Community Assistance (SACA) food shelf and thrift store.

“This is the first time I’ve come here, and I’m so happy it’s close, and I can get the free things that I need,” Armstrong said.

Co-director Dave Rudolph said they’re spending about twice as much this year to keep food on the shelves. Some items, like household goods and hygiene products, are harder to come by.

“Trying to get hygiene products, especially for women, has been really tough, almost impossible,” he said. “If we have to pay retail, it really eats into our food budget.”

Despite their hardships, Rudolph said if there’s a need, they will be there to fill it.

“We got the food and we are happy to help out, and you are going to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.

If you would like to volunteer or donate, visit the local food banks and shelves below:

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