March 21, 2023

As meat and poultry prices have increased in recent years, consumers made what seemed to be a smart choice as an alternative source of protein: They bought more eggs.

Then, the price of eggs flew the coop. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in February that the cost of a dozen eggs had increased 70% in the past year.

And it’s not just eggs that have become alarmingly more expensive. The price of fresh vegetables rose more than 32% from January 2022 to January of this year. Overall, food prices rose almost 13% in one year.

For families already struggling to cope with higher rent prices, higher interest rates on loans and credit cards, higher utility bills and higher transportation costs, the rapid rise in food prices is causing unbearable strain.

“For my neighbors, every month brings the of dilemma of whether to pay the rent and utility bills or buy enough healthy food, diapers and detergent to meet their children’s needs,” Jay Height, executive director of Shepherd Community Center, said. “Mothers and fathers have told me they had no choice but to sacrifice caring for their own health needs so they can feed their kids.”

To help assist neighbors, Shepherd in the past year expanded its food pantry, with the assistance of a $120,000 grant from Gleaners Food Bank.  A key facet of the food pantry: Neighbors who lack transportation or can’t physically leave their home can have food delivered to them by Shepherd staff and volunteers.

People in need also can visit Shepherd each Saturday to receive food from the pantry, and children enrolled in Shepherd programs can take nutritious food home with them on Fridays for the weekend, a time when kids often don’t get enough healthy food to eat.

Families also can learn in the Shepherd kitchen how to prepare their own meals, a skill set that saves money and improves nutrition.

Shepherd’s efforts to reduce hunger are fueled by churches, corporate partners such as Elanco and numerous individuals who give of their time and money to ensure that neighbors aren’t forced to chose between eating and paying the rent or visiting a doctor.

“The call to love our neighbors is more important than ever,” Height said. “I don’t want to hear another mother or father tell me they’re neglecting their own health needs so they can give their children meat and milk.”

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