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'This is no game:' Norfolk foodbank grapples with high food prices, supply chain issues

A year ago, one Norfolk foodbank said it spent about $1 million buying food to stock up. This year, they’re looking at $5 million.

NORFOLK, Va. — As food prices are still sky-high and supply chain problems persist, food banks are trying to navigate that burden.

Food banks in Hampton Roads have always been there to provide food for families who have fallen on tough times.

Thursday, the shelves at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore tell a different story. 

"It’s the perfect storm," Senior Director of Communications David Brandt said.

In the past, he said they’ve relied a lot on donations from food manufacturers and grocery chains.

"If they don’t have enough to stock their own shelves, they certainly don’t have any leftover for us," Brandt said. "That forces us to go out into the open market and purchase food at a rate we’ve never done before."

A year ago, Brandt said they spent about $1 million buying food to stock up. This year, they’re looking at having to spend closer to $5 million.

For example, when they ordered turkey bacon a month ago, it was $1.74. Now, that cost has gone up to $1.99. The organization has already put in an order for Thanksgiving turkeys in the hopes they will arrive on time. That's costing them $1.89 to $2.12 a pound.

"Which is unheard of. We've never paid anything like that before," Brandt said.

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Brandt said food that normally takes three months to ship, is now taking six. A shipment of spaghetti sauce from the USDA that was supposed to arrive in February is arriving next week.

He said before, they were having trouble finding fresh and healthy options. Now, they're searching for basic pantry items.

'It’s one big scavenger hunt, but this is no game," he said.

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Not only that, but demand is increasing as well.

He said their partners at Eastern Shore Chapel in Virginia Beach were serving about 200 people at the beginning of the year. This past week, they served 330.

"There were a lot of people out there who were food insecure. There was also a whole other group of people who were not, but just barely getting by. With these prices rising, there's a whole new group of people that have been pushed into that realm of food insecurity who were getting by before," Brandt said.

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All that being said, Brandt said they still have food to give out, there's just not a lot of variety.

So, they're asking for your help to stock basic pantry items, such as:

  • Cereal
  • Spaghetti and spaghetti sauce
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Pancake mix
  • Peanut butter
  • Mac and cheese

This weekend, you’ll have the chance to help during the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive.

If you leave non-perishable food items outside on Saturday, your mail carrier will pick them up when they drop off your mail and take them to the food bank.