CINCINNATI — For more than a week now, the Freestore Foodbank has been helping Tri-Staters in need fill their shopping carts at the Liberty Street Market in preparation for Thanksgiving.
There is no cost for the recipients, but the Freestore Foodbank, which supplies food to 600 food pantries across 20 counties in the region, is paying a hefty bill.
"Last year, during a time when we would have spent $800,000 on food, we spent over $4 million on food," said Kurt Reiber, president and CEO of the Freestore Foodbank.
Reiber blames the ongoing issues with the nation's supply chain for some of the cost increases. He said problems with meat processing plants and transportation shortages mean they either can't get some food items they normally get, or they have to pay more money. He says the Freestore Foodbank has the double dilemma of trying to keep up with the costs and demands.
"That's the challenge that we have. Increased prices, increased delivery times requires us to work doubly hard to make sure that we're keeping the shelves stocked so that our families can get the food that they need to support themselves," he said.
Of course, the compounded problems are happening with the holidays approaching. Reiber said they are continuing the practice started in 2020 during the pandemic of allowing people to pick up items for their Thanksgiving meals throughout the month of November. It helps to spread out the number of people at their Liberty Street Market, and it gives them time to keep the shelves stocked.
Reiber said people will be able to get turkey and other food items because they made sure they ordered earlier.
"We ordered a lot of turkeys early on and we knew that would be a challenge for us," he said. "So, we made sure that we had enough turkeys to last throughout the entire month of November, because that's part of Thanksgiving, having that turkey sitting in the middle of the table and really allow our families to have some sense of normalcy when it comes to their Thanksgiving meal."
They also are prepared to substitute items if they run out. For example, if they run out of rice, they can substitute with beans.
The Freestore Foodbank is part of the Feeding America network of food pantries across the country. That helps them source food as well.
Volunteers and donations are also in need. For more information, visit the Freestore Foodbank website.