Area pantries see increased need as grocery prices soar

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – More people are relying on area food pantries in eastern Iowa as grocery prices remain high. Prices for “food at home” rose 6.5% last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s consumer price index. They predict even higher prices in 2022 for things like meat and dairy.

The Freedom Foundation in Cedar Rapids operates a food pantry specifically for veterans. They saw the need continue to grow in the new year and HACAP leaders told us they were not alone. Food pantries in the area are seeing more and more customers coming in for the basics.

“A busy day was if we served 8 vets during our two hours of operation. Now it’s normal for 20 vets to come through,” explained Lexi Coberly, executive director of the Freedom Foundation.

12 veterans used the pantry for the very first time in January. Coberly says many who used it to fill a gap here and there now rely on it to meet their basic needs.

“Now with the rising costs, bread is one of my most popular items because I can’t keep it on the shelf here,” she said.

“Most of our partners tell us that their shelves are empty and they need food,” said Kim Guardado, Food Reservoir Manager at HACAP.

Guardado told us that there are several factors driving more people to food pantries.

“We’re seeing an increase in spending at the grocery store, at the gas pump, everywhere in addition to some of those extra benefits ending,” she explained.

HACAP provides food to multiple food pantries in nine counties, including those inside Cedar Rapids schools. Guardado says the need is high across the board, while the supply is down.

“We are seeing a decrease in the amount of food we can make available to our partners,” she said.

HACAP purchases some of the food itself and has seen a 20% increase in these costs.

The Freedom Foundation says rising prices aren’t just impacting veterans they see for food, but also for personal care items, like body wash.

“It’s all ages. It’s young, it’s older veterans, it’s single, it’s families and they depend a lot on our pantry and it’s just heartbreaking because they’ve given so much and yet they rely on us,” Coberly said.

HACAP encourages people who can to donate to their local food pantry.

Olivet Neighborhood Mission in Cedar Rapids posted a message Tuesday saying two of its refrigerators are nearly empty. They saw a 57% increase in the number of people requesting food boxes between the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January.

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