Eden Prairie’s largest social-services provider is among those shouldering higher food costs due to inflation.
PROP purchases much of the food it provides to local families in need, and a variety of factors, including inflation, caused its food costs to be 45% over budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that ended June 30, said Executive Director Jenifer Loon.
Other factors responsible for the higher-than-expected food costs were fewer in-kind donations via food drives held by churches and by companies, many of which still have employees working at home in this COVID recovery period. In-kind food donations for the year were 20% lower than projected, said Loon.
At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people needing PROP’s services. “The real crisis has been delayed,” Loon said about the rising demand for food and other help. “The rush is coming now.”
Over the past 12 months, PROP saw a 22% increase in households and clients needing services, and a 10% increase in the number of first-time clients. All told, 1,207 households were served, and 330 of them were new.
The numbers forced PROP to greatly increase its food budget for the 12-month period that started July 1, and so there’s added pressure to deliver on its food and fundraising campaigns.
One of those is the Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless campaign in which a portion of all financial gifts to PROP during July are matched as it aims to raise $50,000. Another effort where matching funds are available is the Summer Food for Kids program that helps provide nutritious meals to kids that are home for the summer and not receiving school meals.
Information on those programs, as well as a current list of critically needed food items, can be found on the PROP website, www.propfood.org.
PROP is also looking for good participation in the community-wide Night to Unite event Aug. 2, in which Eden Prairie neighborhoods gather for social time and community-building, often collecting food for PROP as part of their activities. The event has traditionally given a big boost to the PROP food shelf, said Loon, in a season when overall food donations can be lean. (Neighborhood registration for the 2022 Night to Unite closed July 22.)
“We’re hoping to start our fiscal year really strong,” said Loon.
The double whammy that is a rising demand for social services and higher food costs due to inflation isn’t faced only by PROP. Statewide, visits to food shelves between December and June of this year were up 57%, according to preliminary data compiled by Hunger Solutions Minnesota, and food shelves are paying more for the foodstuffs they buy, including meat and eggs.
July numbers showed the U.S. consumer price index rising 9.1% over a year ago, reflecting higher gasoline, shelter, and food costs.
When PROP purchases food, it’s typically from nonprofit food banks Second Harvest Heartland and The Food Group. PROP also has what it calls a “food rescue” program, in which donations come from local grocery stores.
In addition, there are a number of community gardens that contribute fresh produce to PROP, and Loon encouraged other gardeners to donate their excess fresh vegetables to the food shelf.