High Inflation Affects Metro Atlanta Food Banks

The Atlanta Community Food Bank operates a fleet of 20 trucks that deliver millions of pounds of groceries to 700 partner agencies. Soaring gasoline prices due to inflation more than doubled food bank transportation costs in March. (ACFB)

Inflation is at its highest level in 40 years with soaring prices for gasoline, food and housing. The high prices are squeezing the wallets of Metro Atlanta residents, but also the budgets of food banks in the area.

In March, the Atlanta Community Food Bank spent about $65,000 on transportation costs, with most of that money used to power its fleet of trucks that deliver groceries to 600 partner agencies in 29 counties. This is more than double the $30,000 the ACFB spent last March to fill up its 20 semi-trailer trucks. At this rate, the ACFB could see its transportation costs increase by $400,000 compared to last year.

The ACFB is currently delivering about 8 million pounds of food per month, about 2 million pounds less than last year at the height of the pandemic. But the cost of food is 30% higher than a year ago.

“The current challenges that we are all facing with higher prices, for gas, for food, for supplies, are increasing the demand for food aid and it is making it more expensive and more difficult for the food bank to respond to this request,” said ACFB President and CEO Kyle Waid.

The Department of Labor recently reported that its consumer price index rose 8.5% in the past year, the highest since 1981. Metro Atlanta prices, however, were well above the national average, reaching more than 10%. Price increases are especially hard on people who are already living on the fringe — those living paycheck to paycheck or on fixed incomes.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to escalate, the ACFB moved into its new 345,000 square foot building in East Point. The new space, the largest food bank in the country, was immediately put into operation to help students, their families and those who are hungry after the closure of schools and businesses. J

“We were supported during the pandemic, and we went through a fundraising campaign just before the pandemic, so we are in a good position financially,” Waid said.

“But we had a pretty big deficit in March. And the longer it lasts, the less difficult it will become to maintain it,” he said. “So we need to keep going out and getting community support to keep meeting the needs in this more expensive environment.”

The Community Assistance Center partners with the ACFB to operate its three food pantries in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody. The center also offers financial assistance, placement and clothing. Some 500 families per month use the pantries. But needs are increasing due to inflation, CEO and executive director Francis Horton said.

“With food prices going up, housing prices going up, transport prices going up, that tends to eat into what little headroom most of our customers have,” Horton said.

Horton said to realize the true impact of inflation, you need to compare costs this year to 2019, before the pandemic hit. Center costs are now about 25% higher than three years ago.

“We made $100,000 in February just in direct financial aid,” Horton said. “Electricity is going up, natural gas is going up, and everything is going up. This certainly has an impact on people’s monthly budgets. They need help now more for cost-of-living expenses than anything else because of the pandemic. »