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As higher costs hit Americans, it's hitting food banks, too

freestore foodbank
Bill Rinehart
The Freestore's Liberty Street facility is the site of holiday food box distribution.

Inflation has hit millions of Americans and agencies that serve some of them are feeling the effects, too. Kurt Reiber of the Freestore Foodbank says higher costs mean more people are turning to them for help.

"So many of our families have just gone through a very difficult time over these past two-and-half, three years, with the pandemic, business closures, furloughs, layoffs. And now to get hit with this inflationary crunch, this is the perfect storm," Reiber says. "Families are trying to utilize whatever resources they have to make ends meet, and many times the Freestore is their last best hope."

Reiber says more people needing help is demonstrated in their large scale food distribution efforts.

"We did one just last week with our friends at St. Elizabeth over in Northern Kentucky, and that went great; however, we ran out of food."

He says that's never happened before.

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Higher costs are directly affecting the food bank. Reiber says it's not just food that's more expensive.

"The cost of diesel fuel is really impacting what we can do, so we're trying to be very thoughtful in terms of how we distribute the food. If we can get food donors to go directly to some of our pantry sites as opposed to having them come to our distribution center and then go out, we try to save that trip as well," he says.

The Freestore Foodbank serves 20 counties in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Reiber says the avian flu hurt turkey production in the country, and that hasn’t helped. "If we hadn't started purchasing turkeys back in April of this year, we wouldn't have even had the 11,000 turkeys that we had to give out over Thanksgiving."

He says they've had to make substitutions in their holiday food packages.

The Freestore Foodbank expects to serve about 9,000 families this month. Reiber says that's up about 20% from last year.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.