As 65% of food banks across the country report surging demand, Feeding America President Katie Fitzgerald confirmed on "Varney & Co." Thursday, that inflationary pressures are impacting operations and driving more people to seek help - many of whom who’ve never requested food assistance before.
"We are seeing a hunger crisis in this country that is really in some ways worse than what we saw at the height of the pandemic," Fitzgerald told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney. "The problem that we're seeing is that food banks are not immune to these inflationary pressures. So they're dealing with trying to address this issue, having to face just insurmountable costs to their way of conducting business."
According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – which is a broad measure of the price for everyday goods – food prices have outpaced overall inflation, rising 10.4% in June compared to a year ago. This takes into account food at home and at restaurants.
Inflation for food-at-home, which accounts for grocery store and supermarket food purchases, rose even higher to 12.2%, underscoring how consumers are not getting much reprieve by trying to cook at home.
A food bank executive in Pennsylvania covering the Philadelphia area noted during a live report on "Varney & Co.," Thursday, that many people are currently "struggling for the first time" amid the inflationary environment.
"A lot of people are finding that they are having to decide between paying for a bill, paying for gas, or paying for food," Chelsea Short, the director of communications at Philabundance, told FOX Business’ Jeff Flock during the live report.
She noted that her food bank has seen a surge in demand as prices for everything – including gas and food – has soared. Short told Flock that, prior to the pandemic, Philabundance was feeding approximately 90,000 people per week, and said that figure has now grown to 140,000.
Not only are food banks faced with increased costs, according to Fitzgerald, but food donations have also seen a tumble amid 40-year high inflation.
"Food donations are down. The supply chain and the tight inventories in the food supply chain are making it very difficult for food banks to get food donated," Fitzgerald explained. "Federal commodity food is down, and so food banks are trying to purchase their way out of this problem."
But food banks’ purchasing power is shrinking, with Feeding America partners expecting to spend 70% more on food costs this year compared to last year, the president noted.
"Our members are telling us that they're running deficit budgets and really asking folks in communities who can help to help as much as they can by donating to their local food bank and helping donate food wherever possible," Fitzgerald said.
The situation is one that’s "not sustainable" for food banks, the president warned.
"There are 66 billion pounds of food in the United States that goes to waste every year. And we know that we can recover more of that food," Fitzgerald said. "We think we can recover another billion in the retail channel alone."
The Feeding America president called to action a nationwide effort to fix "a problem that can be solved."
"Government, private sector, food donors and folks who can contribute and raise awareness about this really solvable, but really difficult problem," Fitzgerald said.