RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A network of food banks in Central Virginia is seeing a sharp rise in the number of hungry families seeking help as inflation drives up the price of groceries.

Feed More coordinates with 275 local food banks in 34 localities to provide food for people in need. Recently, the number of people coming to them for help has grown quickly, with the non-profit seeing a 20% increase in March alone.

“Inflation, supply chain disruptions – all these factors are pushing people towards economic instability,” Rodrigo Arriaza, a Feed More spokesperson, told 8News.

Feed More Map
This map shows the localities served by Feed More across Central and Southside Virginia. (Map courtesy of Feed More)

Demand was on a downward trend late last year, which Arriaza attributed to families recovering from pandemic-related financial stress. But now rising prices across the board have put families in a tough spot.

“It’s making those decisions between food and other basic necessities,” Arriaza said.

The number of people seeking help has risen since the beginning of the year by between 10-15%, but it’s nothing Feed More hasn’t faced before.

During the early months of the pandemic, Arriaza said, the organization saw a 50% jump in use.

But supply chain issues have brought their own challenges, with food banks now facing serious delays in getting much-needed bulk food delivered. Arriaza said that things that used to come on a 2 to 3-week turnaround could now take as long as 8 weeks to arrive.

That has meant that Feed More has relied more heavily on their own transportation fleet to pick up food – in turn making the non-profit feel the pressure from rising gas prices.

Luckily, the organization is still insulated from the worst of the volatility in food prices, as they made agreements with stores and distributors to help keep costs low. For now, that means every $1 translates to four meals.

Food prices
Food prices have risen sharply over the past few months.

Still, Arriaza said there’s no reason for the families relying on Feed More’s partner organizations to worry. He said they were prepared to meet the rising demand and continue serving food to those in need.