ERLANGER, Ky. — For many people, finding their favorite food items on store shelves can be difficult right now, and if they do find it, it’s probably a little more expensive due to breaks in the supply chain and inflation.

Those issues also affect food pantries, which many people rely on to feed their families.

What You Need To Know

  • St. Vincent de Paul food bank in Northern Kentucky’s Erlanger location is being hit by supply chain issues

  • Some of the staple items people get from the pantry are not available

  • More people than normal are coming into the pantry for food

  • The pantry depends on generous donations to feed hungry families in the community

St. Vincent de Paul in Northern Kentucky’s Erlanger location is a choice pantry. That means people in need can come in and pick out the food they want to bring home for their family, kind of like shopping at a grocery store. But just like people at the store, they’re experiencing some of those same issues with food.

“Normally we have this refrigerator fully stocked,” said Karen Zengle, Executive Director of St Vincent de Paul in Northern Kentucky, while pointing to a mostly empty fridge.

The facility provides emergency financial assistance and basic necessities to neighbors struggling to make ends meet. Rent and utility assistance is the largest outreach expense, but food, clothing and furniture are also offered.

Zengel said more people have been coming into the pantry as of late.

“The holidays are coming up, prices are rising in our general consumer world right now, and the foot traffic to our locations and to our pantries in particular has picked up in the last month,” Zengle said. “We’re starting to feel it now, especially. Just like consumers when you go out and make that grocery purpose, there are not as many things to choose from on the shelf.”

Supply chain issues affect the pantry directly and indirectly.

“Sometimes, when you can’t find what you’re looking for on the shelf, you have to buy the next most expensive item, so not only are prices going up, sometimes you, out of necessity, have to buy that bigger box of cereal, because the smaller one’s not on the shelf. And you find yourself spending more money each trip at the grocery store,” Zengle said. “And we tend to run out of some items more quickly than others. Some staple items that are now, even when you go to the grocery store, there’s restrictions on the number that you can pick up.”

St. Vincent de Paul Diocesan Council President Casey Guilfoyle said hunger is something more people are experiencing than what most people might realize.

“A lot of times, it’s their first time calling for any kind of help. I mean we saw that throughout COVID, and even continuing now,” Guilfoyle said. “The prices of food have definitely risen over the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen that. Our neighbors in need are seeing that.”

Not only are new people turning to the pantry in Erlanger for food, but so are other pantries, Zengle and Guilfoyle said.

That’s why donations are so crucial. Zengle said the pantry has been lucky to work with some generous partners. She said this might be just the beginning of supply issues, so the staff is going to continue to take things day by day. They’ll depend on others, just as so many depend on them.

“They return the favor. The folks we serve return the favor with a smile, and the gratitude, and that just feels really good. And something I I’ve to do everyday,” Zengle said. “And we’re glad that we’re able to have the resources to be able to meet that need, so that it removes one more thing to worry about.”

Find out how to donate on St. Vincent de Paul’s website.