Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Feeding America, discussed with Fox News Digital that the organization is seeing "a perfect storm" of situations that make it extremely difficult for the company and for other food banks to meet the demands of America's food insecure population. (Related: More people in need of charity as food insecurity worsens.)
"The crisis that we're seeing right now is in some ways worse than what we saw at the height of the [Wuhan coronavirus] pandemic," said Fitzgerald.
Today's food crisis is "driven largely by inflationary pressures," she said. "We don't see the root causes in terms of food insecurity [being] the same as when the economy essentially was shut down [amid the COVID-19 pandemic] – that was more driven by people losing their income."
Right now, Americans "simply … are having to make economic tradeoffs," said Fitzgerald. "And what they're having to cut is their food, when everything's so much more expensive."
Food banks all over the country are seeing long lines returning as the 40-year high inflation in the United States prevents people from being able to live within their paychecks.
"It's really impossible to get by now without some help," said Tomasina John as she was lining up outside St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix – a line that went around the block. "The prices are way too high."
"It's a real struggle," said Jesus Pascual, who was also in the queue. He has been forced to spend several hundred dollars more per month for him, his wife and their five children.
The main distribution center of Phoenix's food bank saw a 78 percent increase in the number of food packages it doled out during the third week of June compared to the same week last year.
According to Fitzgerald, during the early stages of the pandemic when food insecurity surged, food banks all over the country had "corollary supports" that helped them meet increased demand for food charity. These support structures are no longer available to them, "and the food banks are dealing with this inflation."
Fitzgerald pointed out three main problems that are making Americans food insecure and making food banks unable to properly meet the increased demand for food charity.
"Food donations are down – and that is because of the ongoing tightness in inventory and the ongoing supply chain challenges that are driven by a variety of forces," she said.
Government commodity food programs are also down. These were one of the "corollary supports" that food banks used to be able to rely on to help supply people in need. Fitzgerald noted that at the height of the pandemic a lot of the food that food banks distributed were supplied by the government.
"The third problem is that food banks have been essentially purchasing their way through this problem," she added. "And the value of their dollar is just as challenged for you and I when we go to the grocery store."
Fitzgerald noted that 70 percent of the food banks she recently contacted said that they are planning on purchasing a lot more food than they did last year, but many are having a hard time figuring out how to do so because food costs since last year have increased by between 30 to 40 percent.
"People know that the resource [of a food bank] is available to them, and they're taking advantage of it … that's the good news," she said. "However, we're seeing more demand – and the food banks are really struggling with those inflationary pressures to meet demand."
Fitzgerald noted that if food banks don't start experiencing some sort of relief in terms of the increased prices of food items, "it's going to be a very difficult fall and winter and holiday season."
She added that, by this time, many food banks would have already started purchasing turkeys for Thanksgiving, but "turkeys are just cost-prohibitive now."
"They're already trying to source those products in anticipation of Thanksgiving – and having great difficulty in doing that right now," said Fitzgerald. "So, they might have to give people chickens this year – they might not be able to give out other things."
Learn more about the people in America going hungry at Hunger.news.
Watch this clip from Fox News as Will Cain discusses America's inflation miseries.