WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Increasing food prices are driving more people and families to seek help from Tampa Bay food banks, where the lines are getting longer and longer.
Coming to The Mission of Winter Haven has now become a monthly routine for Arleen Tudury.
“It’s been a great help,” Tudury said.
She lives with her daughter and granddaughter. The family of three receives food stamps but it doesn’t go as far as it used to.
“Food stamps should be more accessible to people when they need them," she said. "They should take into consideration the size of the whole family, not just one person because that’s about what my daughter gets. Enough to buy for one person."
Tudury told ABC Action News she’s paying about $120 more for groceries a month.
“When you have to go to the store it’s like you’ve been saving for a big fancy meal, and it could be just ground beef, it’s really rough now,” Tudury said.
The cost of groceries spiked nearly 13% in March compared to February, according to the world food price index.
“We have seen a big increase of new people coming in who've never needed help before,” Executive Director of The Mission of Winter Haven David Berry said.
The number of people seeking boxes of free food at The Mission is up 25%. Food has become too costly for both people using food banks and the food banks themselves.
“We also have to purchase some food items for our daily hot meals that we have to get in bulk, and we are seeing an increase in that pricing so that does hit the bottom line for our budget,” Berry said.
Penny Carr visits The Mission almost every day with her grandchildren for the hot lunch they provide. It supplements her for when she’s low on groceries.
“You go in with $20, you come out with less than looks like $5 worth of groceries," Carr said. "It's hard to make ends meet. It really is."
Feeding Tampa Bay said the demand has dropped off since the early days of the pandemic but is on the rise again with surging inflation numbers.
Across the 10 counties they serve, Feeding Tampa Bay has seen an increase in 150,000 more hungry families.
“The folks that we serve about 60% of their monthly income is rent, gas and food and all three of those prices are up significantly,” President and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay Thomas Mantz said.
He said as the need grows, they could be forced to give away less food to families in need.
“We’re always concerned with our ability to help the families that come to us for support," Mantz said. One of the things that we would remind our community, is that we go as far as our resources take us. The more people that donate, volunteer, connect with us, the more food we can provide to the community."