WACO, Texas — Trips to the grocery store have gotten more expensive in recent months. For nonprofits, struggling over that pricier purchase is not just crying over spilled milk.
Shepherd's Heart Food Pantry buys a lot of food in order to feed Central Texans in need.
“Half of the food, approximately half of the food that we get, I purchased from the food bank," explained Robert Gager, executive director of Shepherd's Heart. "The other half of the food that we get, it's food that we've rescued from the community, from stores, restaurants, places like that.”
Gager doesn't pay store prices for all that food.
“I pay about 16 to 19 cents a pound for my food," he said.
Every penny counts when feeding Central Texans. So with supply chain issues causing increased prices and decreased supply at the supermarket, nonprofits are feeling the pinch.
"We're seeing shortages of some key items, some of the meat products and others," said Ray Perryman, president of The Perryman Group, an economic research company. "We're seeing some shortages there that raises the prices. And of course, for those that are trying to deal with emergency situations for food, and the food insecurity has been made much worse in the course of the pandemic, that gets to be very challenging because it requires more resources in order to acquire the food in order to distribute it.“
“If you look at the, for example, the food banks around the country, that sort of overarching piece of this is that I think there's about 1,500 of them around the country, and they're are big, huge supply networking in and of themselves," Perryman continued. "So they're going to have trucking issues, storage issues, supply issues, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, that affects some folks who really need some help at a critical time, and it'd be probably one of the most unfortunate aspects of this entire situation.”
Gager has seen and increase of clientele since the start of the pandemic.
"Since February when we started doing this, we're still running 36% to 38% new clients that have never been to our pantry, and we've been here for 12 years," he said. “We live in an area where the poverty rate is twice the national average. We've got a lot of kids with the number of people that we have that are living at or below the poverty line. That means we've got somewhere between 12,500 kids that are in that range."
“Do you think that you're going to start seeing more customers because of these rising prices?” asked 25 News reporter Sydney Isenberg.
“Yeah," Gager replied. "Yeah, because we've got a lot of people that are, the people that are at or below the poverty line, it's around 40 to 41,000 people. The people that are just above that, we're talking about another five to 10,000 people real fast. If those people lose their job, or many of those people in that particular group we see them, if one of them loses a job, the married couples that're here, they see us and we know it's just temporary, but yes, yes.”
So Gager isn't stressing, he's planning.
“I see some price increases coming, but it's not something that has scared me yet," he said. "And the reason I say that is because now that we're in our new facility, and we've got more space available to us, I have the ability to reach out to other food sources for food. And so what I'm saying is I can be competitive with the food bank on the price of food.”
There is hope on the horizon. Perryman predicts these inflated prices will eventually drop.
“I think we're probably going to see this inflation for another two or three months probably, but then you'll start to see it dissipate to some extent as things get back to normal, or some semblance of normal at least," he said. "But it's, it's just taking a while to do this."
“One thing that was actually a little bit encouraging, to kind of give some people hope it’s started to dissipate," Perryman continued. "It may sound like bad news, but we had the largest trade deficit in our history last month, and the reason why is if you look at it, a lot of it was toys, a lot of it was electronics. What that says is some of those things are getting off the boat into the system there, and so when that happened, that raised our trade deficit. But, but it does give a signal that again, that we're starting to see some progress on this.”
Gager says no matter what, Shepherd's Heart will have food for Central Texans in need.
“I keep telling them we're here for you," he said. "I, when we're out doing distributions, I walk the line and I visit with people in the cars and just chat with them, and what I get, when that question comes up, I reassure them. We're here.”
If you would like to help Shepherd’s Heart, the best way to do that is through monetary donations, so Gager can purchase food at that heavily discounted price.
To donate, click here.
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