As motorists feel the strain from high gasoline prices, the pinch is also being felt at the Food Bank for the Heartland. Spokesman Brian Barks says the soaring price of diesel fuel is forcing the Omaha-based food bank to spend more on fuel as it distributes food to facilities in 93 counties in Iowa and Nebraska.
Barks says, “We ask donors who do have small food donations to help us by bringing the food to us here at the food bank.” He says fuel is the food bank’s number-one cost in distributing food items to dozens of soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters across the region. The current fuel budget is about $68,000 a year, but with higher fuel costs, Barks says they’ll exceed that in no time.
“Right now, we’re looking at probably spending somewhere in the vicinity of $80,000 dollars on fuel,” Barks says. “If fuel prices, specifically for diesel, end up at about $4.50 a gallon, that number could go to $90,000 if not closer to $100,000.”
Barks says the problem is compounded as food distribution is up 39% compared to a year ago. The food bank runs nine trucks that travel about 300,000 miles a year, with monthly deliveries to Norfolk, Valentine, Chadron and Scottsbluff in Nebraska and to Missouri Valley, Atlantic and Red Oak in Iowa. Along with individual donations, Barks is asking that donors hosting food drives also deliver items collected directly to the Food Bank.
“Because the less that we have to be out on the road collecting donated food items, the more cost savings we’re going to see,” he says. As gas prices rise, Barks says more people will be requesting assistance for food as they have to choose between paying for food or paying for fuel.