CHATTAHOOCHEE VALLEY— The number of food insecure households in the U.S. has increased 31% since 2022, according to a study recently published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is the largest year-increase the nation has seen since 2014.
“The needs this time of year do tend to escalate,” CEO and President of Feeding the Valley (FTV), Frank Sheppard told WRBL. “We’re also in the midst of a food shortage. So, it’s kind of the double whammy effect of more need and less supply.”
With holidays and potential government shutdown approaching, FTV is feeling the pinch ahead of one of their busiest seasons.
“In the secondary market, which is where we operate. It’s really been a perfect storm of a number of things, most of which are pandemic related that have caused such a shortage. During the period of the pandemic, the supply was tremendous,” Sheppard said. “But now the supply line is a little bit slow replenish. The supply chain itself still has a lot of issues.”
The second component of the ‘perfect storm’ Sheppard describes; rampant inflation.
“A lot of our donors are not donating as much product because they are pinched financially and having to try to sell some of the product that they would normally give to us. So that is just cause the shortage which has really been going on for most of the year.”
FTV continues to see 35% above pre-pandemic levels in terms of demand for product. That demand could increase drastically while a potential government shutdown looms on Nov. 17. Policy advisers for the non-profit are preparing for a total shutdown that would affect 2.2 million workers, including those on Fort Moore.
“Anyone who is a contractor is not even eligible for deferred pay. They’re going to be out of pay for that time. There’s also a trickle-down effect and to civilian businesses that primarily deal with government contracts and the fact that their work would be suspended,” Sheppard said. “So that puts a lot of people out of work at a very difficult time of year, which is typically expensive for families. And that means the demand for our needs will rise.”
The Nov. 17 deadline to avoid a shutdown comes as Congress still debating over a $105 billion request from the Biden administration to fund U.S. aid to Israel and Ukraine.
In the Chattahoochee Valley with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, FTV is calling on the community to host food drives, or virtual drives to raise funds.
“All they have to do is they go to our website, FeedingTheValley.org, and there’s a tab on there about food drives. It will give you the instructions on how to start that and how to contact us,” Sheppard shared. “We’ll get some donation bins out to you and get that food collected and you can do virtual food drives is another way to do that, which bring financial donations in.”
Sheppard went on to say anyone can make financial donations online any time under their donate tab on the website.
Those who cannot donate items or money, can also volunteer during their monthly mobile pantries serving more than 2,000 families across Columbus and Phenix City.
To distribute food ahead of Thanksgiving, their normal distribution hours have changed. Typically, food is distributed at the Columbus Civic Center the third Saturday of the month for Georgia residents. For Alabama residents, the fourth Saturday of the month at the Central Activity Center in Phenix City. This month’s food distribution schedule is as follows:
- Saturday, Nov. 18: Columbus Civic Center, 9 a.m.
- Sunday, Nov. 19: Phenix City Central Activity Center, 1 p.m.