Rising gas prices cut resources for food banks

July 11, 2000|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

DETROIT - Food banks throughout Michigan and the country report that high gasoline prices are throwing their transportation budgets off track, leaving less cash for food.

Gleaners Community Food Bank of Greater Detroit budgeted $13,000 for fuel in fiscal year 2000 and spent $16,700.

"This whole fuel issue has a ripple effect on us," said Richard Loewenstein, Gleaners president.

Fuel prices began to skyrocket in metro Detroit in early May, according to AAA Michigan. Because food banks rely on vans and trucks to pick up donated food and drop it off at nonprofit agencies, gas prices are beginning to affect their budgets, even with the recent small price drop.

Some food banks have been able to make up shortfalls through an emergency fund managed by the Food Bank Council of Michigan, but that money will be gone by the end of this month, said Executive Director Helen Kozlowski.

Local food banks aren't the only ones affected, said Susan Hofer, spokeswoman for America's Second Harvest. That institution is the nation's largest hunger relief organization, with a network of more than 200 providers.

Second Harvest is off budget by 10 percent this year, spending $65,000 more through June than it had planned.

Besides paying for fuel for their trucks and vans, food banks pay freight companies for transporting food.

At Gleaners, a truckload of fruit juice from Wisconsin that used to cost $639 is now $679. A delivery of shredded hash browns from Ohio used to cost $450; now it's $472.

"That might not seem like a big jump, but when you're bringing in 20 million pounds of food a year, it adds up," Loewenstein said.

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