CLEVELAND — Twice a week, for the past two and half decades, Chuck Schmook has devoted his time to packing and giving away boxes of food with the Parma Hunger Center.
“I’ve been doing this since I retired 26 years ago," said Schmook.
But you can ask practically any food bank, 2020 changed things.
“We package everything,” said Schmook. “They call me at my home and I give them a time slot to come. We only schedule so many cars every 15 minutes."
Demand from food banks has skyrocketed compared to 2019, and the cost to purchase the food is right along with it.
"The need is still much greater than it was pre-pandemic. We are doing weekly distributions in the city of Cleveland Municipal Lot, those are still continuing,” said Jessica Morgan with the Greater Cleveland Foodbank. “It was something that we started at the beginning of the pandemic and it's continued now 19 months later."
Morgan said food costs jumped by more than 20% and freight prices jumped between 30 to 40% due to driver shortages.
There’s a pricing issue with fuel and even shipping labels and cans, and this skyrocketing price is trickling all the way down to food banks.
“We ship product in from all over the country,” said Morgan. “We try to do as much locally in-season when we are able to, but you know Ohio is not weather-friendly all year round. So when we’re sourcing things like fresh produce, we might need to get a load from Florida in the off months and we’re paying to have that product shipped to us."
Morgan said on Thursday 1,700 people came to their distribution at the Muni Lot.
Though these high prices make things a bit more complicated for the food bank, donations from the public are what is keeping them afloat.
Donations are also helping them support smaller partners, like Schmook and his team.
“We’ve also been able to provide necessary equipment they need like freezers, refrigerators, tables and chairs for drive-thru distributions."
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