Supply shortage affecting Davidson County organizations that provide meals

Anyone who has been to the grocery store recently has noticed that prices have skyrocketed and some items are not available at all due to recent supply chain issues and labor shortages due to the pandemic. .

Many people had to adjust their weekly budget to what was available and affordable. But if it has had an impact on individuals and families, imagine how difficult it is when you are responsible for feeding multiple people or providing food to the needy.

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Ashely Phillips, director of Davidson County First Hope Ministries, which runs a homeless shelter and food bank, said the recent shortage has not only impacted the number of food donations they have received. , it has also increased the number of people seeking help.

“People are running out of food stamps earlier because of the prices, and we are seeing an increase in the number of people supplementing their diets. Even before the pandemic, our food donations had declined; we haven’t seen bread for a while. It’s just the request, they can’t afford to donate if they need the items for their own family, ”Phillips said.

Regarding the provision of daily meals at the homeless shelter, Phillips said he is fortunate to receive donations from local grocery stores, churches and individuals, but shortages of some items make it necessary to do so. be creative with what they serve.

“We’re pretty good right now, but if we keep going in the right direction we’ll be depleting our food supply,” Phillips said. “Some churches still don’t have services and they haven’t brought their weekly meal. Some (organizations) have ordered food from local restaurants, but on nights when we don’t have it, we need to figure out what we can cook to feed 65 people and make sure we have enough milk and grains to keep us going. breakfast.

Phillips said she was very concerned about the impact of these recent supply issues on their ability to deliver turkeys to those in need of Thanksgiving within a month.

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As with First Hope Ministries, Davidson County Salvation Army leaders are also concerned about the impact of these shortages on their daily feeding schedule.

“Fortunately, we can still get most of the food that we can normally get, but we depend on food rescue programs,” said Major Whitney Morton of the Salvation Army. “If Walmart or Lidl have an excess amount of food that is about to expire, we load our coolers, bring them back and distribute them to families or to prepare our lunches. Depending on what’s available, we need to be more creative and figure out how to add more flavor. Our cook is amazing and can invent great things. It’s like being on (the TV cooking show) ‘Chopped’ every day, ”Morton said.

The Salvation Army also has a pantry, which depends on items donated by local grocery stores, churches, organizations or individuals. Morton said that because more people have to spend more on groceries, they have less to give, which makes for fewer options. Some items donated by local grocery stores are scarce due to supply chain issues and labor shortages resulting in reduced production.

“Between the community and the programs we participate in, we don’t have a lot of choice. If we have a shortage and there is a family in need, we supplement our usual pantry. There are a lot of pantries in the area that have empty shelves and are struggling, but thanks to the generosity of the community here everyone has at least something on the table every night, ”Morton said. .

Recent supply shortages have not only affected charities in the region, local school systems have also had to scramble to adjust their weekly menus amid staff shortages of their own.

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Daved Roberts, director of school nutrition for Davidson County Schools, said that due to recent supply issues, the school system sometimes doesn’t get the items it needs for this week’s menu and must adapt the recipes at the last moment.

“We have to replace missing items all the time,” said Roberts. “We didn’t have hamburger buns a week, so we had to take all of our hamburger patties and change them to steak and burger sauce, or serve chicken patties with waffles instead… We have to constantly put keep our menus up to date, but the most important thing is that we have enough food and that everyone can eat.

Sometimes the shortages are not even food items. Roberts said the school system was recently informed that it will not be receiving a delivery of forks, but will instead be getting spoons.

“So now we have to figure out how to serve kielbasa sausage without a fork, but we have hot dog buns this week and we can serve them on it.” That’s the kind of adjustment you have to make these days, ”said Roberts.

To complicate the supply issues, schools in Davidson County are also facing a labor shortage. The school system currently has 28 vacancies for district cafeteria workers and has given all students free meals for the school year under a pandemic relief order.

“Even before COVID we had staff issues, we were already short. When COVID hit it was a struggle and then the kids came back full time and everyone eats for free. We just haven’t been able to catch up with the increase in the number of employees, ”said Roberts.

Shortages of items and supplies, lack of manpower in processing and manufacturing plants, price inflation have impacted the availability of donated items for many of these organizations that serve the community. Many of them are worried about the future and how they will handle the increased pressures in the months to come.

“I just pray that we can still get these donations this year, especially as the holidays approach. I’m thinking of someone who only gets $ 194 a month in food stamps and given the prices today, that won’t go far. They’re stretching as far as they can right now. We might be having a bad winter, which is normally when our numbers go up, ”Phillips said.

General information reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.

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