Local nonprofit resources strained as inflation surges

Buying food isn’t just getting harder for families in need, it’s hitting the nonprofits that help them.

Feeding Tampa Bay and Metropolitan Ministries said surging inflation is straining resources, and both nonprofits said workers are seeing a record number of families needing help.  

James Dunbar, the senior director of outreach and prevention at Metropolitan Ministries, said they are distributing food at a massive rate 

"Most of the families that are new that we are seeing are all working," Dunbar said. "They are fully working. They've been self-supportive and not needed assistance before, but now they're in a point in which the math just doesn't add up."

Nationally, food costs rose 10% in the last year, getting more expensive for families and for organizations helping them.

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"It is very hard for us to even purchase food at a large store where you buy in bulk is even willing to sell in bulk. It's at incredibly elevated prices," said Dunbar. "But when a store makes that decision to sell to an organization like ours, that means they might not have it on their own shelves. So their goal is to have shelves stocked in the stores."

Dunbar said Metro Ministries usually stocks up on different staples like cereals, grains and more for food boxes.

"We used to be able to buy a little bit of all of it to fill up the boxes," he said. "Now, it may be just whatever we can get. So it might be way more green beans and no carrots or whatever that mix be," he said.

Rising prices are impacting things behind the scenes too. Feeding Tampa Bay said logistics are more challenging now. 

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"We certainly are taxing all of our capabilities," said Thomas Mantz, the president and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay. "So whether that's food that's getting donated to us or we run probably 65 to 68 trucks on the road every single day. So you can imagine what gas costs. So for us, there's been a tremendous impact on our infrastructure."

Yet Mantz said they have not scaled back services.

"So we're seeing increased numbers across the board," said Mantz. "They've been growing since last fall and they've not really gotten a whole lot better since last fall because we've continued to see the level of inflation rise."

The economy is in a tough spot two years post-pandemic, and it’s continuing to strain the nonprofits helping those in need. 

"We're concerned about resources moving ahead as any organization would be," said Mantz. "So whether that is funds or food, we're concerned about our ability to continue to support the community. But so far, we've been able to step in wherever needed."

Feeding Tampa Bay said the current economy also makes it harder for people to be as generous as they were in the past, so they said nonprofits helping Bay Area families will need community support heading into the summer and this fall.