Industries across the board have been impacted by inflation and supply chain shortages over the past year, and nonprofits are no exception.
The North County Community Food Bank in Battle Ground was hit especially hard and has struggled to keep its shelves stocked. As Thanksgiving approaches, volunteers have done what they can to prepare for an influx of people seeking help.
“I think we all see when we do our own personal shopping in the grocery stores the number of bare spaces that food items are lacking or there’s just a few items that are available,” the food bank’s Executive Director Liz Cerveny said. “When you consider the fact that all of the food pantries pick up from the same stores, then that reduction of availability then trickles down to our level, which subsequently really impacts the families that we’re trying to help that are truly struggling to make ends meet each month.”
Cerveny said the amount of clients who utilize the food bank have increased. She has also seen senior citizens who have started their retirement and are unable to afford everything they need on just their Social Security benefits or fixed income.
“Subsequently, they need our help to get through to the end of the month, and young families that are just having children and finding out that their rent is increasing and the cost of fuel to get to and back from work,” she said. “Everything is just snowballing to have that impact on each of us and each of them.”With the growing number of families enrolling at the food bank, it’s been harder to get the amount of food needed to help them all, she said.
“It puts a stretch on all of the pantries, including our own, to really build that full holiday basket that we’re used to being able to provide,” Cerveny said.
The food bank hasn’t been able to find a constant supply of its regular staple items like tuna, peanut butter, jelly, chili, soups, macaroni and cheese, and canned and frozen vegetables.
To help with the effort, Cerveny said the food bank purchased items that would have normally been delivered wholesale from Portland.
“We’re just kind of getting creative and looking at different avenues to bring in different types of food items when we find them, and we’re making two orders a week from the Clark County Food Bank warehouse now, whereas before we were able to get by with one large truckload, (but) now we need two,” Cerveny said.
With each truckload, she said the food bank can order around 5,500 to 6,200 pounds of food, which hasn’t been enough to keep food on the shelves over the last couple of months. To compensate, volunteers have taken their vans to the warehouse to pick up an additional 2,500 pounds of food.
Although they have faced food shortages for the past year, Cerveny said it has become more dramatic in the past two months, which coincides with the uptick in new enrollments.
It has been harder to prepare the Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes the food bank puts together every year because food costs rose 13.5% nationwide, Cerveny said, which “hit the pocketbook in terms of what it would cost us overall to truly follow the same pattern we did in years past and providing that large food box, plus the turkey, plus the milk, cheese, sugar, butter, eggs and everything else that we did.”
Besides food donations, the pantry is also in need of laundry soap, Cerveny said.
The North County Community Food Bank is located at 17 NE Third Ave. in Battle Ground. It is open from 9 to 11:15 a.m. and from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 9 to 11:15 a.m. on Fridays.