Loaves & Fishes steps up to the plate amidst food price inflation

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Loaves & Fishes sees a spike in new members

Last year saw the most significant hike in food price inflation since 1979. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, grocery costs climbed 13.5% in August. Though general inflation is easing, higher-than-average food prices have taken their toll, with more local families than ever looking for help in getting their grocery supplies. Naperville-based Loaves & Fishes Community Services is working hard to help meet the growing needs of families in Will, DuPage, Kendall, and Kane counties.

“The numbers of people that we’re serving each week has gone up more than 100%, so it’s more than doubled. So last year, this time, we were serving about 3,000 people a week. And now we’re serving well over 6,000, sometimes up to 7,000 people per week,” said Loaves & Fishes CEO Mike Havala.

Food Inflation presents new challenges for Loaves & Fishes and its members

The need is born out of people making tough decisions.

“When their rent goes up a lot, and their utilities go up a lot, and their transportation costs go up a lot, they’re forced to cut things like food, and when they cut food, then they really need to come to somewhere like Loaves & Fishes that can help them backfill for the food and especially the healthy food that they’re not getting on their own,” said Havala.

Loaves & Fishes has faced challenges, trying to keep up with demand, all while battling inflation. In addition, supply chain issues and poor croplands due to bad weather meant the food pantry needed to find different approaches to getting its food.

“So we’ve had to be very creative and resourceful in our approach to sourcing food. So we recover food, a lot of food, from our retail grocer partners. We also get food and food drives, people that donate it, and then we also buy a lot of the food as well, and in the food that we’re buying, again, we’ve seen a very significant increase in the prices. We’ve been looking at creative alternatives as far as going to the food manufacturers, going to food distributors, going to 3PLs (third-party logistics), going to other sources that we haven’t typically gone directly to in the past to try and source food at a low or no cost level.” said Havala.

Loaves & Fishes CARES Programs provide more than food

Once they have the food, it is critical to ensure it gets to those who need it. Putting their distribution hub online and adding new distribution spokes has been a big help. But their outreach goes beyond just supplying food. For example, the pantry’s CARES programs help prevent homelessness, connect families to public benefits, help with education and financial literacy, and help people find jobs.

“So I like to say that providing people food is good, providing them healthy food is better, but getting them to be self-sufficient is best. And so that’s the Holy Grail for us is for our clients to become self-sufficient,” said Havala.

Feeding families and their futures.

For Naperville News 17, I’m Marcel Francis

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