IMPERIAL — Inflation and supply chain issues are impacting food distribution to the homeless and other persons experiencing food insecurity in Imperial County.
"Rural remote food banks have historically relied on what we can get from the government and donations; now here we are with gaps in our food supply," Imperial Valley Food Bank (IVFB) Executive Director Sara Griffen said.
Griffen said most of the food provided to IVFB comes from the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture.
"Farmers will commit a crop for the government to buy, but are finding higher bidders and not selling to the government," Griffen said.
As the government competes for food, Griffen said many orders to the food bank were canceled.
"That hurts us because we don’t have food that is promised to us," said Griffen.
Alba Sanchez, IVFB program director, added that some of the canceled items include canned fruits and veggies, and some frozen meats.
Since the pandemic started, the number of users across the 32 food distribution sites in the Imperial Valley increased from 18,000 to 25,000 per month.
"COVID-19 was expensive for us. Now we have to purchase food, and we don’t have that kind of money," Griffen said.
During the last semester, the number of items included in the food boxes has decreased, Sanchez said.
"We were putting 20 to 22 different items in those distributions; now we are down to about 17," she said. "We are still trying to add as much items as we can, but it's been very difficult. Companies are still not fully operational."
She added that the IVFB has been able to maintain operations due to community donations and food drives.
"We had to use some of those food drive items that we normally include in emergency boxes," added Sanchez. "We are pulling those out and adding them to our regular distributions because of the shortage."
Sanchez said she is hopeful that food production will increase and that the Imperial Valley community keeps supporting through item and monetary donations.
"Anything that comes into the food bank is out to the families and so we can purchase more," said Sanchez. "I think it is very important to help the community and families that are in need."