Food banks and pantries nationwide are struggling to keep up with demand. Soaring food prices combined with fewer donations are leading to thinly stocked shelves. The impact is making it more challenging to feed the hungry, especially this time of year.
"Our shelves are a little bare," Pastor Stephanie Parker of The Gathering at Scott Memorial United Methodist Church told CBN News.
For the past ten years, the church has hosted Fresh Food Wednesdays, an outreach distributing food to the community's working poor.
"Every week we hit a new record of new families," said Parker. "Many have tears in their eyes as they thank us and also as they say, 'This is the first time I've ever needed this.'"
The increased numbers are likely to keep growing with even higher grocery prices expected and the colder weather ahead.
According to Feeding America President Katie Fitzgerald, "High prices will continue to drive more and more of our neighbors to food banks and food pantries as we enter the winter season."
Meanwhile, donations have decreased over the last few months for many food banks.
Christopher Tan heads the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
"Down pretty significantly, 20 percent or so in the last six months," Tan said in an interview with CBN News. "At the same time, we're down in food donations, we're also up in people in line."
"Some have actually come and sat out in their car for four hours waiting for us to open the door," said Tim Wright, a member of the leadership team at The Gathering's Fresh Food Wednesdays.
Wright said getting supplies from the local food bank is critical and some key products are proving harder to come by.
"We make every effort to put together a package of food for our guests that is well-rounded," Wright explained. "Currently we are very short of canned vegetables. We can procure food. I have soup here, I have some fruits, but I have no canned vegetables."
When supplies run low, the church must come up with other ways to meet the needs.
"For example, we have a lot of spaghetti paste or sauce, but we don't have pasta. Well, from our church fund, we'll buy the pasta and supplement the bag so that we can put into the bag a meal of pasta and sauce," said Wright.
Tan explained, "The non-perishable items are certainly the things that we need the most to get, but protein is also difficult to get and so chicken, and pork, etc.
Those are all items Pastor Parker hopes to provide families for the holidays.
"We're hopeful we can give out a good meat selection right before Christmas so people can have that ham or turkey," said Parker. "Something special as they deserve to have that special meal just as everyone."
Despite the challenges with keeping the shelves stocked, the team at The Gathering at Scott Memorial UMC trusts that God will continue to provide.
"There have been weeks that we're not sure how much food we're gonna have. And every single week God shows up," testified Parker.
Wright says the goal isn't just about providing food for families, but also displaying the love and support of Christ.
"We just want them to feel our love and feel that we're glad that they're here," said Wright.
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