The effects of the pandemic’s massive supply chain disruption has trickled down to the most vulnerable Bay Staters as some food donation nonprofits like Boston-based Lovin’ Spoonfuls see 20% less food available to donate to local pantries.
“Right now, what we’re seeing is a drop in product that mirrors what we saw back in the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, when everyone was panic-buying as everything as being disrupted,” said Lovin’ Spoonfuls Chief Operating Officer Lauren Palumbo.
Lovin’ Spoonfuls was founded in 2010 as a “food rescue.” The organization collects perishable food that goes unsold at grocery stores, wholesalers, farms and farmers markets. On the same day their workers pick up the food, they deliver it fresh to food pantries, meal programs, shelters and community centers in more than 50 cities and towns across the state.
Just last spring, the organization celebrated distributing their 20 millionth pound of food. But as of late, Spoonfuls employees have been stuck driving half-empty trucks around the state, scrapping for food to bring to those in need.
Over the last week, the organization was able to “rescue” just under 63,000 pounds of food, only 79% of what they would recover during a week just a few months ago.
“We have to, essentially, ration it out,” she told the Herald.
According to Lovin’ Spoonfuls data, they were short of their average meal donation by about 12,000 meals last week.
Palumbo said there’s not any particular food item or category of product they’re seeing less, but she attributes the food shortage to supply chain issues impacting food service and retail nationwide.
Grocery stores and markets where Lovin’ Spoonfuls source their food are struggling in their own operations, both in keeping their shelves full and finding people to work.
“Across the board, our Food Rescue Coordinators are reporting a significant decrease in the amount of product they’re recovering,” confirmed Operations Director Rebecca Handford, in a statement. “The stores are telling us it’s due to a number of factors from entire department teams out with COVID, to store orders being canceled due to weather or staff absences to stores running out of product as people stockpile for storms and frigid temperatures.”
Spoonfuls’ partners in local communities are feeling the squeeze while hungry families continue to show up, hoping for help. Lovin’ Spoonfuls provided about 3.3 million meals to people struggling to put food on the table in 2021.
“Despite the appearances that large portions of the economy are returning to normal, there’s still an overall net increase of needs from their clients compared to before the beginning of the pandemic,” Palumbo said.
Palumbo said the organization is “bracing” for a tough winter, the season when food donations are typically their lowest. She emphasized that anyone in a position to help the hungry can provide financial assistance directly to Spoonfuls, or reach out to their local pantries.