Supply chain issues putting a strain on Tampa Bay hunger relief organizations

Supply chain issues are not just causing grocery prices to shoot up, they're also putting a strain on Tampa Bay area food banks that are working to feed people in need.

It's not just grocery trips getting more expensive. Gas and rent cost more, too, and it's leading to more people in need. The organizations that provide help to get folks through are having a tougher time getting donations and filling their shelves.

"It definitely affects those we serve who are living on a fixed income," said Justine Burke, vice president of marketing at Metropolitan Ministries.

Labor shortages and supply chain issues have led to a 4.6% increase in food prices from a year ago. Meat, poultry, fish, pork and eggs are all up more than 10%. Beef prices have increased more than 17%.

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This holiday season, Metropolitan Ministries expects to serve as many as 33,000 at-risk and struggling families. They're having to order food much earlier. 

And items they'd normally buy in bulk, "We're finding that that might not be possible this year," said Burke. "Grocery stores are also worried and they're trying to keep their stores full for their customers, which is certainly understandable."

Metro Ministries is also having a hard time finding staples like stuffing for Thanksgiving boxes. 

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"We're buying, you know, boxed potatoes to have extra ones of those in case we can't have stuffing," Burke said.

At Feeding Tampa Bay, "We have about 35% more people in our world today than we did pre-pandemic," said Thomas Mantz, president and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay.

They're struggling to keep up supplies of proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables. Companies that normally donate excess food have their own supply issues.

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"We are buying more food than we ever had in the history of our existence," Mantz said. "I mentioned that we really work off of donated food, but to overcome some of the gaps, we've been buying food for the last couple of years."

Higher food prices will likely mean more people seeking assistance. These organizations hope the community will help them bridge the gap.

"This is certainly a new challenge that we're facing but we're working through, have been working through, to make sure that we meet the needs of the families who are counting on us," Burke said.

Whether you need help or want to offer help, here is how you can connect to these food relief organizations: