The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank normally receives dozens of food items daily with donations coming from faraway grocery stores in Egypt and Italy. But imports have slowed down significantly. Amy Hill, director of Community Engagement & Advocacy at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, said that many of the sources they've relied on for years haven't been as reliable.
The delays are caused by products stalled on ships in the Pacific Ocean. The supply chain crisis is also linked to labor shortages that are causing a nationwide supply chain backlog. (Related: Supply chain issues, soaring food prices wreak havoc on US economy #EmptyShelvesJoe.)
Because food banks are receiving fewer supplies, volunteers may resort to food swapping for the upcoming holidays. They might use fresh potatoes instead of canned potatoes, explained Hill.
According to Central Pennsylvania Food Bank staff members, they might have to deal with the shortages up until Christmas. In the meantime, they plan on buying more food from local vendors.
Some food banks are prepared for the supply chain crisis. Jennifer Brillhart, president and CEO of York County Food Bank, said that they started purchasing more food since summer because they anticipated a greater need during winter.
Overall, consumer prices in September have gone up 5.4 percent from a year ago. The prices of meat have gone up more than most. Prices of other staples like dairy products, grains, fruits and cooking oils are also increasing.
Along with a run-up in costs at the supermarket, gasoline prices have also increased as natural gas and heating oil prices are predicted to increase more by winter. The fuel price increase can make things harder for those with low incomes.
Additionally, the assistance programs launched by the federal government to help those struggling amid the pandemic in 2020 have mostly lapsed. And while some households have savings from government payments, not everyone can afford extra expenses.
Michael Swanson, chief agricultural economist at Wells Fargo, warned that the factors causing higher food prices "have been building for some time and aren't going away anytime soon."
The Huron Valley schools in Highland, Michigan, are also facing alarming food and labor shortages because of what supply chain experts are calling a "global transport systems collapse."
As the economy reopened after lockdowns, experts said that many industries, particularly those delivering food and supplies to schools, are struggling to meet increased demand. Experts are worried that the backlog of orders could extend throughout the rest of the school year.
School nutrition departments have modified their meal programs to a grab-and-go system in 2020 when schools shut down for remote learning. Now, they're struggling to find menu items, with front office staff and school administrators often helping to serve meals.
Sara Simmerman, food and nutrition supervisor for the 8,600-student district, expressed her worry because things "may even get worse before it gets better."
School nutrition departments change menus almost daily depending on deliveries. They also postpone equipment purchases to make up for higher prices on food and supplies.
The unpredictability of deliveries adds to the frustration of school nutrition departments. For example, a satellite kitchen that serves the district's elementary schools recently received only 35 of the 400 cases of food ordered. But several days later, they received 700 cases of food at once.
Lieling Hwang, assistant director of nutrition services for the Long Beach Unified school district in California, explained that deliveries of goods and foods are now "extremely delayed." What used to take two to three weeks now takes an average of eight weeks to receive because of the supply chain crisis.
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