Food Pantries Seeing Spike In Visits Due To Rising Food Prices

CHICAGO (CBS) — With all the rain we’ve had lately, we might forget we had a serious drought this summer, and that the drought will have a big impact on food prices this fall.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports rising food prices are putting a strain on local food pantries.

Since Charles Glenn lost his customer service job, he’s had to watch every penny.

“Sometimes I pick up odd jobs, but they don’t always cover my food budget,” he said.

His food budget is about to get much tighter.

The summer drought killed lots of crops. As a result, food prices are expected to rise 3 percent, according to the federal government.

For the poor, that increase is crushing.

Doug Fraser, director of the Care For Real food pantry in the Edgewater neighborhood, said, “They spend between a quarter to a third of their income on food. Any little increase nails them, just nails their budget, and they end up coming to food pantries.”

Fraser has studied the grim numbers: a three percent hike in food prices means a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of people who come to Care For Real seeking help – what Fraser calls “client visits.”

Even before the drought, the numbers were already heartbreaking.

In 2007, the pantry had 700 client visits per month. Now, it sees 4,500 to 5,000 client visits per month.

“It’s been difficult, it’s been a real challenge, and it’s not just us. It’s a reflection across the country of issues that pantries have,” Fraser said.

He said, soon, Care For Real will see thousands more client visits per month.

Fraser said those who visit always have a sense of hurt pride.

“We like this place. It’s a community, but nobody wants to come through here. It’s difficult for everyone,” he said.

Resources at the pantry are already stretched thin.

“We’re short on peanut butter, we’re short on canned fruits, we’re short on a whole lot of other things,” he said.

Yet, clients like Glenn, and like Karen Oklesian, are grateful for whatever they can pick up at the food pantry.

“It’s almost a life saver,” Glenn said.

“I try to take good care of it, and eat it wisely,” Oklesian said.

That’s what you do when money is tight. The Care for Real pantry accepts donations – checks and food. They said they could really use pasta. They’re also short on milk.

Care for Real is located on Sheridan Road, just north of Foster Avenue. You can find out more about the work they do, and make a donation at their website by clicking here.

More from Jim Williams
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