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Social Service Agencies Feeling The Fuel Pinch, Too

A Greater Chicago Food Depository truck is loaded. (CBS)

A Greater Chicago Food Depository truck is loaded. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s not just motorists frustrated by high gasoline prices. Chicago area social service agencies that need to hit the road to do their good work are also feeling the pinch.

What is kept at the Greater Chicago Food Depository is in great demand. Sixty-six million pounds of it end up in soup kitchens, shelters and pantries each year. The goods help to feed almost 700,000 people.

But it is suddenly more expensive to do that — a lot more expensive.

“The first quarter of 2011, we’ve already spent more than $10,000 on gas than we would have a year ago,” Bob Dolgan says. “That’s money that could be going into food, especially in these times when more people need it.”

The organization’s 28 big trucks run on diesel fuel, and like gasoline, it has gone through the roof. The price of diesel in the past year has risen by more than $1 a gallon. The organization’s smaller trucks get 5.5 miles per gallon; the bigger trucks get 3.5 miles per gallon. Collectively, they travel 250,000 miles a year.

The rising fuel costs have affected food quality.

“It doesn’t mean there is less food,” Dolgan says, “but it means we’re not able to go out and get more nutritious food. … It’s been one thing after another, really, the past few years, but mostly for the people in need.”

The organization is trying to make the best of it. They plan their delivery trips more carefully and they’re trying to find the lowest prices possible. But even that kind of planning can only save them so much.