Local Food Pantries Navigate Inflation to Provide for Holidays

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Faced with rising costs, the Lincoln County Food Pantry this month found a way to offer Christmas rations at the end of an increasingly costly year. Some pantries have cut back on the extras that were traditionally included or changed their offerings, but many ordered well in advance to avoid supply chain issues.

Nationwide, food spending increased 10.6% overall from November 2021 to last month, and grocery increased 12%, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Attendance at food pantries and other food agencies, according to Dawn DiFiore, director of community partnerships for The Good Shepherd Food Bank, a statewide organization that serves as a source of bulk food purchases for more than 600 agencies in Maine. Rates have remained high since the pandemic began.

A representative for the Lincoln County Pantry said the number of patrons has been declining since 2020, though some have seen a slight increase in recent months, suggesting rising heating costs could be a factor. I suspect it’s putting pressure on my personal budget.

“There is still a need, but the focus on this issue is waning,” DiFiore said.

According to DiFiore, charitable food organizations rely on three types of support to meet their needs: monetary donations, food donations, and volunteer time.

DiFiore said that since 2020, “giving has declined across the board.” “We hear it from our agents and partners.”

Many Lincoln County food pantries have been operating for decades, and their organizers say they’ve learned to prepare for uncertainty. Order food in bulk in advance, use substitutions when needed, and manage your budget.

Still, they all increased in price, and some adjusted their prices.

For the first time this year, the Jefferson Area Community Food Pantry offered a $10 Hannaford gift card instead of turkey or ham for Christmas pickup, according to organizer Alison Brooks.

“This pantry was the most expensive pantry we’ve ever installed,” Brooks said of the Christmas pantry on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Brooks said donations to the Jefferson Pantry declined in 2022 as donors’ own savings were affected.

The Jefferson pantry typically serves 90 residents, Brooks said. Attendance he has doubled every year since 2020 and has doubled again in the last four months.

Christmas pickups typically include gift stockings for visitors to choose from, but that was also not in the budget this year. Last minute donations of Christmas items from residents and First National Bank allowed visitors to choose their gifts.

Brooks began planning for Christmas in October and double-ordered on Thanksgiving. We are replenishing the ingredients of

Big budget pantries, such as the Boothbay Region Food Pantry, are planning as well.

Co-president Fleet Davies said the organization has been inundated with donations but may struggle to find items it wants to buy in large enough quantities, but availability has declined in the past six months. Improved. He orders through Hannaford in addition to Good Shepherd.

In 2020, The Pantry has decided to switch to financial vouchers that families can use to purchase vacations. This was due to the challenge of providing the same food in sufficient quantities for everyone.

“Usually, we estimate that when you order, you get an average of 85% of what you order,” says Davies. “I know that someday I will come across a situation where I cannot afford to buy, so I try to buy more than I need to many times.”

Other pantries found what they needed and had the money to buy it, but they were still feeling the pinch.

Wiscasset’s Help Yourself Shelf organizers have spent about 50% more this year than they did in 2021 to serve the 80-90 families who are coming over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Donations from other programs and local businesses allowed us to provide everything they normally offer for the holidays, including a small gift from Big Al.

At the United Methodist Church’s New Harbor Food Pantry, organizer Kevin Adams said he was able to supply the Christmas food baskets delivered each year by the Bristol Area Lions Club, even as prices rose.

“Our community continues to raise funds,” Brooks said.

She said she has a limited budget but has all the volunteers she needs.

“People come in all of a sudden and that’s what keeps us going,” she said.

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