2022 was quite a year in the food assistance business. High inflation rates, especially for food and fuel, were hard on all but hardest on lower and/or fixed income households. The number of food insecure households grew nationally, and locally, as those “just getting by” suddenly weren’t. As a result, we saw many “old faces” that needed help even more and a lot of “new faces”, struggling with higher costs, especially for food. Sourcing enough food to meet increased demand was made harder by higher prices, supply chain issues and reduced corporate food donations to Feeding Southwest Virginia, but we continued to meet demand.
The number of boxes distributed each month in 2022 compared to 2021 is graphed below. We saw more than a 40% increase in demand during 2022. Each of the last three months of 2022 we set and rest all-time records for boxes distributed, averaging 348 boxes per month. We distributed food to an average of 315 households with 741 family members during each of those months (large households get two boxes so households are about 90% of boxes each month). We also provide a “Kids Bag” of breakfast, lunch and snack items to households with children. That number is now over 100 per month! These numbers are beyond our wildest dreams from three years ago when we began planning Food Independence.
Fall 2022 may provide insights into our future. Numbers usually drop after the holidays at most food pantries but we gave out 349 boxes in January 2023, unchanged from the fall. Perhaps we are at a (very high) plateau for demand in our rural county? We are capable of handling this demand but it will stress our human, infrastructure and financial resources over the long term. In next month’s newsletter, we will discuss what is in a “box”, how we will continue to source food to meet demand and possible ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Our mission is to provide food assistance to those in need, for the long term, and thanks to volunteers, donors, gifts and grants, we intend to keep doing that!
Boxes Distributed Per Month