As Alabamians prepare for Thanksgiving, food banks across the state are scrambling to keep up with the increased needs of parishioners due to rising food costs.
“We had a greater need this year than ever before,” said Jean Rykaczweski, director of the West Alabama Food Bank.
Inflation, which has caused higher costs in grocery stores and elsewhere, is the biggest factor contributing to this increase, Rykaczweski said. Those on fixed incomes, such as the elderly who depend on Social Security or those who depend on food stamps, are hit hardest, as are people in low-wage jobs whose salaries cannot keep up with rising prices.
In Alabama, about 17% of adults and nearly 25% of children are food insecure, according to the Alabama Department of Health.
“This winter is really scaring me because the cost of heating a house has increased so much that people have to make tough decisions this year. Am I going to turn on my heating? Or will I eat or will I buy my medicine?”
The West Alabama Food Bank is increasing the number of mobile grocery supplies it ships to communities from once a week across the nine counties it serves to four times a week.
But the cost of groceries has risen so much that they’re not sure how to offset their costs.
“We’re hitting it a lot harder than usual this year. And we have to make up for that in the spring. You know, and we don’t know what that looks like yet,” Rykaczweski said.
A dollar or a can?
While a truckload of groceries to be distributed to their community partners cost $27,000 two years ago, it cost $47,000 this week and is estimated to cost $53,000 at Christmas.
“We used to tell people give us $1 instead of a can because we can buy more with that dollar. Well, that’s not necessarily true anymore…donated food is like gold to us right now.”
Along with donated food, it would be helpful, Rykaczweski says, to volunteer time to help pack boxes of food for schools to send home to their most needy students.
For people who need extra help with eating this holiday season, Feeding Alabama, a program of the Alabama Food Bank Association, provides a list of regional food banks where groceries and free or low-cost meals are available. Some restaurants also help provide holiday meals, such as B. Chuck’s Fish in Tuscaloosa, which offers a “pay what you can” Thanksgiving dinner.
The Salvation Army also hosts Thanksgiving dinners in various parts of the state, as well as the Waterfront Mission in Mobile, which hosts Thanksgiving dinners at their mission at 279-A N. Washington Ave. will host and provide over 1,000 free meals this week in partnership with First Baptist Church’s Tillman’s Corner, West Mobile Homeless Ministry, Veterans Recovery and McKemie Place for Women.
In Central Alabama, the Clay County Farmers Market in Lineville (86838 AL-9, Lineville, AL) will have a mobile pantry giving out free groceries to the first 350 homes Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
A list of pantries in Wiregrass can be found here.
A list of pantries in East Alabama can be found here.
A list of pantries in the Birmingham area can be found here.
A list of pantries in North Alabama can be found here.
A list of pantries in Selma can be found here.
A list of pantries in West Alabama can be found here.
A list of Thanksgiving meal distribution events in the Gulf Coast region can be found here.