FORT WORTH and NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Food charities in Tarrant County are beginning to feel the impact of empty store shelves, as donations from grocery stores dwindle even as demand climbs.
The extra meats and produce food organizations usually rely on, are not available, as the food supply chain adjusts to a sudden rush on stores during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It comes as demand has more than tripled for some groups, and they have had to limit volunteers due to safety concerns.
“Depending on how long this lasts, and how long we have to be in this mode, this could be quite costly for Tarrant Area Food Bank,” Julie Butner said Wednesday.
The CEO for the organization had to pull marketing, development and administrative staff Wednesday to pack emergency supply boxes they were handing out at schools. That was on top of the normal supplies distributed to partner food pantries in the region.
Butner said TAFB was meeting demand, in part through additional supplies from the USDA.
However, supermarket chain H-E-B has already warned that future deliveries may be limited. Butner said the company donated $75,000 to allow her to purchase food to make up for the shortfall.
She was also working on hiring restaurant employees who lost their jobs last week, as temporary workers to replace volunteers.
“And that’s going to cost us about $15,000 a week, that we’re not budgeted for, and don’t have the funds for,” she said.
In North Richland Hills, the Community Enrichment Center said it was only picking up about a quarter of its normal donations from grocery stores. It was also handing out as much food in a week, as it usually does in a month.
“People that are really going to need it in a couple of weeks, we don’t know what the supply’s going to be,” said Randy Clinton. “We don’t know what the demand’s going to be.”
CEC has been distributing many of the emergency supply boxes at schools, and had received additional shipments from TAFB, but didn’t expect that to last.
Community Link in Saginaw said it had moved to drive-through only service, with prepared boxes to control supply. It had run out of items like milk and eggs, and cut out grocery store pickup entirely due to limited items available.
The also said finances were an immediate and long term concern, not just due to supply and demand, but uncertainty about support from partners like churches, dealing with their own downturn in available funds.