As the pandemic continues, food pantries across the Garden State are experiencing increasing demand, but they are also reporting growing problems in getting the supplies they need.

Amy Costa, the director of food sourcing for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, said one main reason is the supply chain disruption crisis.

“As the supply chain has tightened, donations, especially through COVID, we’ve really seen those numbers come down, you know the peaks and valleys of the supply chain has really impacted that,” she said.

She said the Community Food Bank, which distributed enough food around the state last year for 85 million meals, is on pace this year to distribute 93 million meals.

Supplies are limited

Costa said grant money, state funding and donations from the public are used to purchase supplies but with the current supply chain issues, “it is becoming increasingly complicated to get the products we want and or need in a specified timeline. There’s a more limited amount of product out there available.”

Suppliers that service the Community Food Bank as well as retail supermarkets have reported companies that manufacture canned goods like vegetables have been unable to meet demand because there are shortages of aluminum cans.

Costa said one reason why demand for food is increasing is prices are rising rapidly.

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Inflation is heating up

“So just for somebody who is food insecure, that makes their situation even more challenging, there are more people in need than ever,” she said.

The organization Feeding America estimates 1 out of 12 New Jersey residents is food insecure, meaning they may have limited or uncertain access to adequate food supplies.

She said another complicating factor is the Jersey labor shortage.

Not enough workers

Costa pointed out as demand for food has increased, finding workers has become more difficult.

“Our organization has expanded in terms of the amount of employees just due to we’re moving more food out, so we need more drivers and more people to work in our distribution centers,” she said.

She said when the pandemic began the number of volunteers dropped significantly and that has started to come back to pre-pandemic levels but “we’re also still very careful to protect those who are volunteering for us.”

To learn how to help the Community Food Bank of New Jersey you can visit their website.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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