‘Biggest food shortage in 40 years’: Local food bank in desperate need of donations

With the summer break from schools upon us, food banks will be stretched even further.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:23 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Food is a necessity for everyone. In South Georgia, one food bank is seeing a food shortage that hasn’t been as bad in decades. WALB’s Jim Wallace sat down with the food bank’s CEO to get more on the issue.

And Frank, you’re telling us about secondary markets. What’s going on?

“We’re just, we’re experiencing the biggest food shortage we have in the 40 years of food banking,” CEO of Feeding the Valley Food Bank Frank Sheppard said. “And it’s pandemic related. It’s really a number of causes our federal government and state governments provided a plentiful amount of food during the pandemic to help so many more people in need. And those supply lines are just a little slow to replenish. Then you have the whole supply chain issue. Things are just taking 3, 4, 5, 10 times as long to get to us as they used to and rapid inflation is affecting a lot of people, a lot of our donors as well. So it’s really just a perfect storm, unfortunately of circumstances that has got our inventories at record low levels.”

Meanwhile, what’s the need of the public?

“As the unfortunate part is, it’s still increasing. Still 35% above pre-pandemic levels, so it’s the wicked combination of increased demand and low supply. But we’re working through those issues and continue to get people fed,” Sheppard said.

That was the question. You are still able to provide for folks right now.

“As you know, we had a great inventory reserves built up with all the food that came to us. During the pandemic, especially on the back end of the pandemic, we warehoused all that that we possibly could, so we’re still getting food out there. We’re dipping into our reserves and purchasing food for items that we are having trouble getting, so we’re still meeting the demand. Not at the level we’d like to though. So we look forward to getting the inventory levels back up. And getting more and more food on the community,” Sheppard said.

Schools will be recessing for the summer real soon. Some at the end of this week. Are there concerns about the kids that won’t be getting those meals?

“Our summer feeding triples from the regular school year feeding. We feed so many kids in so many areas and yeah, you know, so many kids rely on school, breakfast and lunch don’t have that; that they’re available for the summer. So we open more sites and feed more kids. We’re prepared for that and we know it’s going to, it’s going to tighten our belt strings a little bit, but that’s OK. We’re going to make sure the kids have meals during the summer to get them through,” Sheppard said.

How can the people in the community help?

“You know they can always donate food items. They can go to our warehouse at 1706 Ledo Road and donate anytime Monday through Thursday. They can go online at feedingthevalley.org and make a financial donation. Those help tremendously. They can start food drives at their business, their civic group or their church. Also very helpful. Every bit helps and really gives us the ability to provide those meals, especially those additional ones during the summer,” Sheppard said.