The cost-of-living crisis is not going away any time soon. Food, fuel, and fertilizer costs—while not has high as they were earlier this year—are still exorbitantly expensive, affecting people’s access to affordable basic goods and services. These steep price tags—caused by inflation, ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change-related events, and conflict in Ukraine and other parts of the world—have triggered what the United Nations calls “the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation.”
This crisis is both fueled and worsened by the inflated costs of food. Disruptions in how and when food is produced, transported, and distributed is preventing many people from getting enough to eat. And for people with lower incomes, people without adequate access to social protections, and people who are already experiencing food insecurity, the ongoing crisis has multiplied these effects.
In fact, recent data from the FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition report shows that the number of people unable to afford a healthy diet rose by 112 million to 3.1 billion, and 150 million more people are affected by hunger since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food banks were among the first to see these effects, and they will likely witness them long after prices stabilize. To better understand how these price spikes have affected food banks and the communities who depend on them, GFN surveyed Network member food banks in the areas hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis. Here are some of our most striking findings:
All respondents reported an increase in food assistance requests due to higher food and fuel prices—including by people who have never needed food bank services before.
All respondents reported that rising food costs are impacting people who are accessing food banks. Most food banks reported lower access to adequate food and several reported that they sought out emergency food assistance from agencies to feed their clients.
Nearly all food banks reported fluctuations in food product donations, affecting the amount and type of inventory available for individuals and families in any given week.
Additional reports from food banks in the Network are also coming in:
Nigeria’s No Hunger Food Bank, which is part of GFN’s New Food Bank Development program, reported a 65 percent increase in the number of internally displaced and vulnerable people they served as a result of rising food and energy prices.
Food Banks Canada reported that one in eight people they serve are gainfully employed but still can’t make ends meet due to the ongoing pressures of the cost-of-living crisis.
Despite these challenges, food banks have been—and continue to be—essential actors in providing consistent nutritious food to communities facing unprecedented hardships made worse by the cost-of-living crisis. Their ability to react quickly and effectively to procure and distribute food to the people who need it most is a crucial stop-gap measure in efforts to alleviate the effects of the cost-of-living crisis.
That’s why GFN continues to collect and use data from member food banks to inform and improve our response so that food banks have the resources they need to support communities—regardless of what’s happening in the world. We’re committed to strengthening food systems through supporting the resiliency and capacity of GFN members, especially where needs are highest.
But we can’t do it alone.
We need local and global organizations, philanthropies, corporations, and policymakers to step up and support community-led food banks so that our neighbors can weather the short- and long-term impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.