Long lines are back at food banks in Arizona, other states as inflation hits high

A volunteer fills up a vehicle with food boxes at the St. Mary's Food Bank Wednesday, June 29,...
A volunteer fills up a vehicle with food boxes at the St. Mary's Food Bank Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Phoenix. The food banks are struggling to meet the growing need even as federal programs provide less food to distribute, grocery store donations wane and cash gifts don’t go nearly as far.((AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin))
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 4:05 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 15, 2022 at 7:44 AM MST
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PHOENIX (AP) — Long lines are back outside food banks around the U.S. as working Americans overwhelmed by inflation increasingly seek handouts to feed their families. Many people are coming for the first time amid the skyrocketing grocery and gas prices.

The food banks struggle to help even as federal programs provide less food, grocery store donations wane and cash gifts don’t go nearly as far while U.S. inflation hits a 40-year high. Charitable food distribution has remained far above amounts given away before the coronavirus pandemic, even though demand tapered off somewhat late last year.

Tomasina John was among hundreds of families lined up in several lanes of cars that went around the block one recent day outside St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix. John said her family had never visited a food bank before because her husband had easily supported her and their four children with his construction work. “But it’s really impossible to get by now without some help,” said John, who traveled with a neighbor to share gas costs as they idled under a scorching desert sun. “The prices are way too high.”

Jesus Pascual was also in the queue. “It’s a real struggle,” said Pascual, a janitor who estimated he spends several hundred dollars a month on groceries for him, his wife and their five children aged 11 to 19. The same scene is repeated across the nation, where food bank workers predict a rough summer keeping ahead of demand.

The Phoenix food bank’s main distribution center doled out food packages to 4,271 families during the third week in June, a 78% increase over the 2,396 families served during the same week last year, said St. Mary’s spokesman Jerry Brown.

More than 900 families line up at the distribution center every weekday for an emergency government food box stuffed with goods such as canned beans, peanut butter and rice, said Brown. St. Mary’s adds products purchased with cash donations, as well as food provided by local supermarkets like bread, carrots and pork chops for a combined package worth about $75.

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