Food banks in California brace for the holidays amid surging food prices

ANAHEIM, California — Two food banks in California have been gearing up for a busy holiday season: One is spending tens of thousands amid rising food prices, and the other has been serving triple the number of people since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland is dealing with the toll of rising food prices and supply chain issues as it serves families grappling with food insecurity.

“They’re depending on us,” said Elizabeth Gomez, director of client services at the food bank.

Over the past year, food prices have increased 5.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Because of food price increases, the food bank is spending an additional $60,000 on food per month.

“We need to be ahead of the game as much as we can,” said Gomez, 48, who’s been working with the organization for 24 years.

She said the food bank has seen price increases across the board for seven core items, with oatmeal and frozen chicken seeing the highest increases at 17.1 percent and 13 percent respectively. In total, it is spending more than $1 million on food per month — compared to $250,000 each month before the pandemic.

“Part of the increase is because we’re willing to spend more on food to ensure that we actually secure it,” Gomez said. The backlog of shipments along the California coast has created supply chain issues and has contributed to less inventory and increased transportation costs for the food bank.

The food bank has had to turn to alternatives such as single serve cereal bowls to replace oatmeal, and turned to Costco to get a variety of canned meats for canned tuna that has been running late.

“We are expecting more than 400,000 Alameda County residents,” Gomez said. “We’re bracing for what is to be the busiest month and a half ahead for us.”

In 2020, rough estimates...

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