The highest inflation prints in four decades have forced some Americans to flood food banks and pantries (again).
WSJ reports that Forgotten Harvest in Detroit has experienced a dramatic increase in demand. Since December, demand at the food bank has increased from 25% to 45%. In March alone, when energy and food prices soared, demand jumped 30% over the prior month.
Christopher Ivey, a spokesman for the Detroit food bank, said, "the need is growing quickly, as gas prices are continuing to rise."
"As you know, there are shortages in the grocery store and the costs of the commodity goods are going up and up and up, Ivey said, adding this is putting pressure on the food bank.
The hunger crisis is countrywide. With a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, Feeding America published new data that found demand for its food assistance in February increased in nearly every food bank (85%). That was a 20% increase versus January's numbers.
Allison Korn, the director of the Food Law & Policy Clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the virus pandemic sparked food insecurity, and today's inflation environment has made things worse.
"You will continue to see folks come into food banks who are seniors, who are undocumented individuals, and persons who suffer from disabilities ... But you're also seeing folks who are just kind of trying to cobble together jobs who may suffer from chronic and persistent unemployment," Korn said.
Working-poor households have been battered by inflation at a four-decade high. The price of food in March was 10% versus the same month last year. Inflation has outpaced wage growth, sending real wages negative. Also, the personal savings rate has collapsed to its lowest level since December 2014, an ominous sign the consumer is stressed.
Higher food bank demand has put pressure on this organization's supply chains because of increased food costs, rising freight costs, and food availability.
"We have had to work harder to secure the food needed to support the community," Tim Fetsch, the St. Louis Area Foodbank chief operating officer, told WSJ.
Fetsch warned that today's inflationary environment and supply chain disruptions had reduced the amount of food donated.
Feeding America's CEO Katie Fitzgerald said food banks in the organization's network had increased food purchases by 60%. She outlined costs have increased by 40%.
What's important to understand is that lower-income households are unraveling as consumer prices are at historically high levels. It's a sign that some households are at breaking points amid threats of stagflation.