Hampton Roads food banks are grappling with inflation, greater food insecurity. Here’s how to help.

Grocery bills show the signs of inflation.

Supermarket costs went up another 0.6% from August to September and have skyrocketed 13% when compared with September of last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the past year, the average price of eggs in the U.S. increased from $1.84 to $2.90, and a gallon of milk jumped from $3.59 to $4.18.

Those increases are affecting more than personal bank accounts. Food banks across Hampton Roads are dealing with a significant uptick in families needing help, while price increases challenge the nonprofit organizations’ purchasing power, according to food bank leaders.

“We’ve seen large increases in the number of people who are seeking assistance,” said David Brandt, senior director of communications for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. “You had people who were just getting by before inflation became an issue. Inflation pushed them into the realm of food insecurity.”

At the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, more people started asking for help in September, shortly after the brunt of inflation began taking hold, said CEO Karen Joyner. At the same time, food donations dropped dramatically.

“September-October, our agency shopping floor was pretty bare,” Joyner said.

Inflation also affects the amount of food the organization can buy from its suppliers, Joyner said. She said the cost of food for the Food for Kids Backpack Program — where children are sent home from school with food — has increased by about 40% this year. Other purchased food is up at least 20% over the same time period.

In addition, the food bank faces increased transportation costs and continuing supply chain delays from the pandemic. Joyner said food deliveries are sometimes delayed by as much as a week.

Brandt and Joyner said the public can help in three significant ways:

  • Food: The public can donate food either at drop-off sites or by hosting a food drive. This weekend, both organizations are coming together to host their annual Mayflower Marathon drive-in food drive event across the region.

  • Money: The organizations rely on public monetary donations to up their purchasing power when buying food in bulk.

  • Time: The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore is expected to distribute 21 million pounds of food this fiscal year, Brandt said. It relies on a team of around 3,000 volunteers to help distribute that food, and are looking for more.

For more information about donating and the Mayflower Marathon, visit foodbankonline.org for South Hampton Roads and hrfoodbank.org for the Virginia Peninsula.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, trevor.metcalfe@pilotonline.com