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More people seeking help from East TN food banks as prices rise, straining some food banks' resources

Some local food banks said they were concerned over how much longer they will be able to help people if food prices keep rising.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As food prices continue to rise, food banks across East Tennessee are finding it harder to stay afloat and serve people in need.

Elaine Streno, the executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, said there is a concern they may not be able to serve the community for much longer. She said they are having to buy more food and the bill is a lot higher.

"Inflation has impacted us in a triple gut punch," she said.

Second Harvest buys around 70% of the food available at their warehouse. However, Streno said she does not know for how much longer they will be able to keep that up.

"The chicken that we purchased two years ago, we purchased it recently and it went up 72%," she said. "Peanut butter has gone up 17%. I am looking at the rice and it has gone up 50%."

Streno added that rising prices have also forced more people to seek help from food banks; some of them for the first time in their lives.

"We get calls from people that never thought they would be in this situation," she said. "We are not a food pantry, but if people come here for food, we are going to give them a box. The average is about 70 boxes a month that we give to people that come here. Last month, in June, it was 117 food boxes that we distributed, so you can see it is all increasing for us. It has just been a real challenge."

The third big concern for food banks in East Tennessee is the lack of donations. Streno said donations help keep these food banks alive, but she said this year they cannot predict how many donations they will get.

"Some people might not be able to give us anything this year because they are spending so much more on food and gas," she said. "We live off of the $75 gifts and the $50 checks that come to us."


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