Are Food Banks Affected By Rising Grocery Prices?

Many Toms River residents lined up to get a Thanksgiving turkey at Fulfill’s holiday distribution. (Photo courtesy Fulfill)

  JERSEY SHORE – As food prices surge throughout the country, it’s affected the economy in more ways than ever. Higher prices have left many families and individuals struggling to have food on the table for themselves. Along with the inflating prices, many grocery stores and super markets are experiencing a shortage in products to put on their shelves.

  With the COVID-19 pandemic still is full force over a year later, the increase in food cost is just another hurdle for most.

  These effects are hurting individuals more during the holiday season. Some residents now need to rely on food banks and pantries to support themselves. But how are food banks adapting to the rising prices and the decline of supply?

  Fulfill, the local food bank that serves Monmouth and Ocean counties, said that the organization has been able to get the food they need. However, donations are more critical than ever since Fulfill is 87% private donor funded. With prices being higher across the board and fuel also higher for deliveries, they are seeing the effects.

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  “Unfortunately, we don’t see any end in sight with the need for food at the Jersey Shore. We expect the need for food to spike this winter after rent and utility freezes end, and now that added federal unemployment insurance benefits are over. Not everybody has recovered from the pandemic and Fulfill is here to help them get back on their feet,” Fulfill Board Chair Lauren Holman said.

  Fulfill is still serving 215,000 people, 70,000 of them are children. Pre-pandemic, Fulfill served 136,000 people, including 50,000 children. Pre-pandemic, 1 in 10 residents in Monmouth and Ocean Counties were food insecure. Today, that number stands at 1 in 6. Currently they’re serving 850,000 meals per month to those in need in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

  Holman stated that during the height of the pandemic last year, the demand for food increased 40%, and they continue to see the same kind of volume.

  “We could always use monetary donations to purchase food. Prices are higher, and we must order food earlier to ensure we receive it when needed.”

Neptune was one of the several locations where Fulfill had their turkey distribution for those in need this Thanksgiving. (Photo courtesy Fulfill)

  Donna Howell, who is the Director of the Howell Emergency Food Pantry, said they’ve seen more and more residents needing help.

  “There’s absolutely been a rise in our local neighbors needing assistance, but what’s even more important is that there’s been a huge rise in people contributing. We’ve had an exceptional outpouring from our residents looking to assist neighbors in need. There’s been a huge uptick in people needing assistance in the past 18 months. But we have seen unbelievable help from the community and local businesses,” Howell said.

  She explained how recently, the organization has taken in more donations than ever before and believes the current price gouging and shortages has not affected the pantry.

  “I think the last two years have taught us a different level of gratitude. Those who have to ability (to donate) have done it regardless of the cost,” Howell said. “The pandemic brought to the forefront a lot of the needs of the local people that some folks didn’t realize were there. We’ve gotten a lot of people who’ve never donated in the past, not just our regulars who have consistently donated throughout the years. I think that’s why we’ve had a lot of donations.”

  Currently, the Howell Emergency Food Pantry is distributing goods in their parking lot in order to provide proper social distancing. If you would like to drop off a donation, visit on Mondays between 9 to 11 a.m. at 449 Adelphia Road in Howell. To go at a different time, you can set up an appointment with Howell by contacting her at: howellemergencyfoodpantry@gmail.com. To send monetary donations, they can be mailed to P.O. Box 580, Howell Township.

  To support Fulfill, residents can send monetary donations, give food or hygiene products donations, host their own food drive or become a volunteer. All information can be found on their website at fulfillnj.org.