Chicago-Area Food Pantries Dealing With Rising Need, Higher Prices

If you’ve already done your grocery shopping, you may have noticed the cost of Thanksgiving dinner has gone up this year.

For families already stretching to make ends meet, this might mean seeking help from local food pantries. Many Chicago-area pantries are reporting a significant increase in demand of late.

Kate Maher, executive director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, says they’re seeing a 35% increase compared to last year. Those numbers are similar to what the depository saw at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that 35% is much more impactful this year because of inflation.

“The particular type of inflation right now is challenging, not just because it means that more people are showing up as food pantries, it’s also challenging because we are paying more for the food that we have to deliver to those pantries,” Maher said. “So about 50% of the food that we distribute is food that we are purchasing, and we are spending a lot more money on that food.”

Maher says the depository spent $1 million more this year on food because of inflation.

Another reason for the increased need is the rollback of support from government programs that existed at the start of the pandemic, Maher said.

“There were some programs in the early days of the pandemic that provided government food assistance. We needed that,” Maher said. “But those programs have sunset. And so we are back to relying on donated food and then food that we purchase and that food that we pur