Editor’s Note: This article and headline have been revised from an earlier version.
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Food pantries and emergency food assistance organizations across the county and region are experiencing meat shortages on their shelves as supply chain challenges continue to impact the quantities and variety of food available.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC
Second Harvest provides food for grocery assistance partners across 18 counties of Northwest North Carolina, including 10 agencies, churches, and organizations in Statesville and North Iredell.
“I’m generally not a fan of the “Perfect Storm” metaphor,” said Eric Aft, Chief Executive Officer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, “but I see it as appropriate at this time, with multiple forces coming together to create a threatening situation with impacts to the health and well-being of families and our communities.”
“Inflation, including core expenses of housing, fuel and food that affect low-resourced families disproportionately, are impacting the number of individuals seeking assistance, food available through our wonderful grocery partners and the pantry’s ability to purchase meat at the same levels as in the past.”
The on-going inflationary environment is presenting very real challenges to food banks, including Second Harvest and the many families, seniors, and others with limited resources that the organization serves.
“There is a sustained, high need for food assistance in our communities. Supply chain challenges continue to impact the quantities and variety of food available to our food bank through our wonderful grocery retail partners,” said Aft.
Second Harvest reports that government food sources alone will decrease by 4 to 5 million this year.
Aft said that almost all additional government assistance programs provided during the height of pandemic are set to fully expire in early October with the “health emergency” being officially declared to be over by Governor Cooper and the federal government.
At the same time, inflationary forces on families’ core expenses of housing, fuel, and food, which affect low-resourced families disproportionately, are impacting both the number of individuals seeking assistance and Second Harvest’s ability to purchase food at the same levels as in the past.
“Nonetheless, the circumstances are a call to action to our community for their sustained faith in and support of our vital work. As always, our team remains stalwart in its commitment to respond,” said Aft.
Aft noted some bright spots on the horizon. The Biden Administration and USDA announced a planned investment in emergency food assistance to nation’s food banks, though the level of support is unclear for Second Harvest at present.
He expects the funding will be meaningful. “However, we know it will not make its way to our community until sometime in mid to late 2023 and 2024.”
“Today, what we need most is continued strong financial support from our community to allow for continued and expanded investments in bulk food purchases; continued advocacy at all levels of government; continued strong support for community food and fund drives; and continued strong levels of volunteerism, which are the lifeblood of our work,” said Aft.
Iredell Christian Ministries
Iredell Christian Ministries, like most food pantries, is struggling to provide fresh and frozen meat to customers. In the past, ICM purchased 10 banana boxes of meat each week from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC at a reduced rate.
This meat almost covered the organization’s weekly food distribution, as it typically gave out three boxes of meat per day, four days per week, leaving ICM to purchase or collect only two additional boxes per week from other sources.
However, as inflation rose and the economy slowed over the past couple of months, ICM has only been able to purchase five boxes of meat weekly at Second Harvest because Second Harvest’s donations have been severely limited as well.
These five boxes only last ICM about 1.5 days of food distribution, so ICM now must purchase or collect seven additional boxes of meat per week to meet the food distribution needs of its clients.
Joy Morrison, executive director at Iredell Christian Mission stated, “The average cost of a box of meat purchased through local vendors is about $250. That puts us at an additional $1,750 for meat purchases or donations per week.”
“When those additional costs are not feasible, we have no choice but to cut back on the amount of meat that is given out to those in need during food distribution.”
“The need in Iredell County is critical and we need support now more than ever. Currently we are seeing 30 to 50 new applicants a week right now from families and fixed-income individuals who are seeking assistance,” says Brittany Holbert, Program Director with FeedNC.
While the demand is increasing, the donated food supply is steady or lower than usual. “As grocery prices have increased by 30 percent. It makes it a little harder for some to pick up the extra to donate.”
“We’re averaging about 5,000 pounds less per month in in-kind donations in 2022 than in 2021. And as inflation continues, it is creating financial chaos for those families who were already just getting by.”
How can you help this situation?
United Way of Iredell County is working in partnership with nine local pantries to ensure that there is an adequate supply of meat available during this crisis.
Led by a generous gift from United Way’s partners at JC Steele and with the support of companies, churches, and community members, United Way is coordinating a bulk purchase of meat.
Marian Clark, president of JC Steele said, “This is a notable example of the United Iredell effort being led through our local United Way. By working together, we can create much more impact than each of these pantries could do on their own.”
“Join us. One hundred percent of your gift will go directly towards ensuring our friends and neighbors have access to the food necessary to keep their family healthy as our economy adjusts to the disruptions of the last few years,” says Nelson Granade, pastor at First Baptist Church of Statesville.
First Baptist Church of Statesville has also made a lead gift as a way of challenging other faith communities to join them in filling this need.
“Congregations are often the first to see a community need, as folks come to us when resources are down,” Granade said.
“We realize that we can do more by working together, so we decided to lead out in the ‘Where’s the Meat’ campaign.”
Granade encourages other congregations in Iredell County to join First Baptist Church of Statesville in this effort.
To make a financial gift to this effort, visit our event page at https://bit.ly/IredellMeat, or text MEAT to 41444 or mail a check to United Way of Iredell County at P.O. Box 1312, Statesville NC 28687. Be sure to write “Meat” in the memo line so that your gift will be correctly designated to this effort.
The following beneficiaries of the “Where’s the Meat” campaign are also currently accepting in-kind donations. Please call them directly with any questions you have about what an acceptable donation is and how to donate:
♦ Iredell Christian Ministries – 704-924-6700
♦ Landmark Relief – 704-873-9701
♦ Matthew 25 Ministries – 704-546-5859
♦ Iredell COAST – 704-380-0203
♦ FeedNC – 704-660-9010
♦ Fifth Street Ministries – 704-872-4045
♦ The Christian Mission – Mooresville 704-664-2357
♦ The Salvation Army – 704-872-9622
♦ Yokefellow Ministry of Greater Statesville – 704-872-7677