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Valley food banks explain obstacles amid shortages, inflation

Food ready to be picked up at Hope Distributed.
Food ready to be picked up at Hope Distributed.(WHSV)
Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 11:53 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Across America, industry after industry has been hit with shortages, and Americans have noticed the difference as prices spike as well.

With the holiday season and colder weather on the way, WHSV checked in with some local food banks and pantries to see how those issues were being felt in the Valley.

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB) distributes millions of pounds of food to its community partners every year. CEO of BRAFB Michael McKee said if the food bank continues to see its usual support from the community through the fall and winter months, he is confident that they will be able to support those in need.

“We are getting all of the food we need. We are very grateful to the community for their support and we’ve been investing in our partners’ infrastructure so they can get that food out to the community,” McKee said.

McKee said shortages and inflation are more so impacting the people the food bank serves, especially women and single mothers.

He said the prices of essential goods going up over the last few months can still make a big difference for families that are already on the edge financially, as some may have to choose between buying food or paying the electric bill.

“That’s going to be exacerbated this year by the high cost of food and other basic necessities, including heating fuel and gasoline,” McKee said.

Those high prices at the pump have been impacting Hope Distributed, which serves families in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Executive Director Jeff Wilhelm said that cost is his biggest worry since they use their trucks every day to pick up donations at local grocery stores and deliver food. He said it would usually take $40 to fill up a truck, but that is now up to over $60.

“We’ve also started a delivery program, for folks who can’t get to our food pantry, where we go deliver the food to them,” Wilhelm said. “Because of the increase in the fuel cost, the pump is starting to get us pretty good when we go to fill up our trucks.”

Wilhelm said he has noticed some staple items, like canned fruits and vegetables, are now difficult to get from the USDA.

“We get our USDA food from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. What happens is they send us a menu order of what they have available, and that’s really how we stock our warehouse full of canned goods and fruits and vegetables,” Wilhelm said. “There are certain items that have not been on the list for the last month or two. A lot of times if they are not on the USDA list, then that’s something we will pay to get.”

Despite challenges, Wilhelm said this week Hope Distributed was able to distribute over 300 boxes of food to Rockingham County families in need for Thanksgiving.

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