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Interview: Impacts of inflation on local food banks in Northern Nevada

There is a woman in a pink sweater grabbing boxes with other people standing behind here at a table with more boxes.
Lucia Starbuck
/
KUNR Public Radio
Volunteer Mimi Krohn (center) packed fresh foods for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s drive-through Mobile Harvest at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sparks, Nev., on Feb. 15, 2021.

Prices for many basic needs are up due to record-high inflation, and food was no exception. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada has been navigating lower numbers of donations while also serving an increase in clients. KUNR’s Nick Stewart talked to Jocelyn Lantrip from the food bank to learn more.

Nick Stewart: How are food banks currently being impacted by inflation?

Jocelyn Lantrip: You know, the supply chain has been a significant problem for us, and that has changed over time, but now, we are seeing significant increases in the food that we purchase. And the other thing is sometimes we’ll source fresh produce, say out of California, and while we may be donated an entire load of produce, which is fabulous, we have to get it here from California. And so we will be charged with paying that freight, so there are more than just even food costs that are causing that issue.

Stewart: And with these increased prices and food, are you seeing more people go to the food bank for services?

Lantrip: We have seen an increase in people needing our services. Right now, we’re helping about 115,000 people every single month; our average for our last fiscal year was about 108,000.

Stewart: And with more people having to go to the food bank, have you been facing any issues with staffing or volunteers or things like that?

Lantrip: I think most sectors are seeing issues with staffing, and luckily, we have been able to find a lot of great people to do these jobs, so we’re in pretty good shape there. And volunteers are the same. ... I can’t tell you how many volunteers came out and helped us in the middle of a really scary time. So it’s always heartwarming to see volunteers, and we are concerned about the price of fuel — the commute out to the food bank being a little bit longer — that that will affect our volunteer program.

Stewart: So it’s really just sort of like this domino effect in a way?

Lantrip: There are many things that we’re dealing with right now, and one of them is less food donations from a lot of different places, but it’s a supply issue. We get excess food, so if there isn’t a lot of excess around, then we will receive less donations. And with more people that need our help, then we need to go get that food somewhere else or purchase more food, which is [what] we are doing. And luckily, the community has been very generous.

Stewart: That’s really good to know that the community is at least still trying to make an effort.

Lantrip: Our community is truly amazing. They can visualize a family that has a lower income than them struggling to put food on the table and help. So it’s perfect. It really is great that we have that support.

Stewart: What do you wish other people knew right now who maybe don’t know much about food insecurity or similar topics?

Lantrip: I would say one thing that I wish people knew is how prevalent hunger is in their own community and how difficult it is for families who have to make really tough choices between paying their rent and eating, buying their medicines and eating, and not just in difficult times, all the time. There are so many people that kind of suffer silently; they don’t want to ask for help. That’s one of the reasons we do the outreach that we do because we want people to know that we’re there, and if they’re missing meals at all or are struggling to know where their next meal is coming from, it’s time to ask for help, and we want them to do that.

Stewart: What would you say the best part about your job is right now?

Lantrip: I love to go to a distribution. People are happy to receive the help; you can see them have like a sigh of relief to know that they don’t have to worry about that. And then, you know, it’s very rare that I’ll do a food drive where somebody won’t come up and donate food and say, “You helped me at one point.” And that is just full circle. A lot of people help us because they’ve been in that situation before, and I love to hear that, not that they were needing assistance, but just that we were there for them.

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