Inflation and increased demand are weighing on NH’s pantries

Some New Hampshire food supplies said they are struggling to keep up with growing demand around the holiday season as inflation is making it harder for families to afford groceries — and harder for others to afford the charitable giving that powers many food distribution efforts drive.

Inflation is hitting the New Hampshire Food Bank hard. Executive Director Eileen Groll Liponis said in 2021 they were buying groceries at about 56 cents a pound but in November 2022 they were spending 89 cents a pound.

Groll Liponis said they ordered groceries for the Thanksgiving holiday four months in advance, but supply chain issues are still affecting their inventories. Groll Liponis said they see 34% less variety on their shelves, particularly in fresh produce. They’re running out of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.

The board has distributed around 10,000 turkeys and 7,000 food vouchers and hopes that will be enough.

“If there’s less left at the grocery store, we’ll have less left,” Groll Liponis said.

There is less food and many more needy people, she said. In one community, the number of families searching for food in a mobile pantry increased to 600 from 300 in previous years. Other pantries have reported similar increases.

High food prices are forcing some organizations to rely more on gifts, but these donations are falling short. Sara Ceaser, director of volunteer and community engagement for the United Way of Greater Nashua, said rising electricity prices are pinching everyone’s pockets.

“They have less flexible income for charity,” Ceasar said.

The United Way of Greater Nashua hosts pop-up pantries and other city-wide food distribution efforts. In recent months, they’ve increased the frequency of their food drives from twice a month to weekly to keep up with demand. They are currently helping 125 families a week, and Ceasar said they have also been receiving more requests for special holiday meals from older adults and people with disabilities who are unable to leave their homes.

Similarly, at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, CEO Michael Reinke said food costs are up about 50% since last year. You also see a lack of lettuce. They expect 30% more people to use the pantry and kitchen this year.

Reinke called on people to donate, especially from April to June when the need is even greater.

Families in Transition in Manchester is also suffering from a shortage of fresh produce and other items – including eggs, milk and juice – said Stephany Savard, the organization’s chief external relations officer.

Still, Savard said the tough economy hasn’t stopped her from preparing Thanksgiving dinner for people living in shelters and recovery shelters. They prepare a special meal for 200 people.

“Turkey, gravy, potatoes and veggies, the whole thing,” Savard said.

Families In Transition’s new pantry served 1,000 families in October, twice the usual number.

Savard invited Manchester residents struggling to afford groceries to seek help and forget stigma.

“Their resilience to asking for help shows that they are supportive of their family,” she said.