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Ozarks food bank reports more demand as prices spike

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Ozarks Food Harvest

Ozarks Food Harvest serves more than 270 agencies in a 28-county service area — as inflation and higher gas prices are hitting everyone’s pocketbooks.

A local nonprofit that feeds the hungry is feeling the effects of higher food and gas prices.

Jordan Browning, spokesperson for Ozarks Food Harvest, the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri, said the organization provides free delivery of food to more than 270 agencies across its vast service area. Because of high gas prices, delivery costs are expected to increase 25 to 40 percent.

This comes as demand for food is up.

Browning said one in five children and one in six adults in their service area are facing hunger.

"The thing that we're really seeing is that impact on the economy that we saw from COVID is still there," he said, "so we're anticipating that recovery is going to be much slower for those populations who were already suffering from food insecurity even pre-pandemic."

The latest Feeding America food bank pulse survey data showed that more food banks (around 85 percent of the 200-food-bank network) reported seeing demand for food assistance increase or stay the same for February compared to the previous month.

Ozarks Food Harvest recently awarded $1 million in grants to more than 70 of the food pantries it serves so they can increase capacity. And the food bank has ramped up its mobile food distributions to help meet demand.

Due to inflation, Ozarks Food Harvest is having to pay more for the food it purchases for distribution to food pantries.

On top of that, Browning said an increase in USDA commodities during the pandemic has been slashed in half.

Feeding America said in a news release that it projects the food bank network will experience a 20% decrease in manufacturing donations and a 45% decrease in federal commodities in fiscal year 2022.

Browning said Ozarks Food Harvest is also facing supply chain issues.

"Ways we're having to combat that is we're purchasing more food than we've done before and also we're ordering food much earlier than we've done before to make sure that all of our agencies aren't going to have bare shelves when times come around," he said.

Ozarks Food Harvest has already ordered Thanksgiving turkeys, which will arrive later this year.

The food bank has also started a senior produce program, which distributes free produce to seniors in its service area.

And it has increased production and distribution in its Full Circle Gardens program so more fresh produce can be distributed.

Browning said, fortunately, they haven’t been impacted by the labor shortage, so they have enough drivers to take food to pantries in their service area.

To donate to Ozarks Food Harvest, visit ozarksfoodharvest.org.

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