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Severe supply chain crisis forces intense strain on Omaha metro pantries

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 8:50 AM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s no longer just another national story on your feed that can be brushed away or shrugged off.

Labor shortages along the supply chain are forcing abrupt changes in the Omaha metro and across Nebraska that - unlike much of the food flying off shelves - isn’t seasonal.

Local experts say they’ll be feeling the effects for years.

“We don’t know when we’re gonna get items...if we’re gonna get some items,” said Stephanie Sullivan, of Food Bank for the Heartland, further explaining that crucial items like cereal, juice, and pasta sauce are going from surplus to scarce.

“That affects our programs. We have a backpack program for children. That’s a staple that normally goes in that,” said Sullivan.

Since they can’t just replace the meals with junk food, they’re bleeding resources, working with their nearly 600 partners to get equally healthy replacements.

“The need is greater than ever. We really need the public support,” said Sullivan.

To give you an idea of how serious supply chain issues are in Nebraska and western Iowa, just look at the numbers. Ninety-three counties depend on the food bank and more than 200,000 people are struggling with food insecurity.

The Food Bank of the Heartland spent $80,000 a month on food pre-pandemic and economic strain.

“We are now spending $780,000 a month.”

That may just sound like a number but inflation, coupled with a supply chain crisis means limited and unpredictable food options for everyone who relies on them.

“We are located in an area of Omaha that is food insecure,” said Veda Keebler.

Veda heads Project Hope in North Omaha. One of the local pantries that receive a weekly shipment from Food Bank of the Heartland.

She says they’ve been great about maintaining their orders but she’s noticed the variety issues that make it tough to run what they call a choice pantry, where families can come in and select the items they want based on their household size.

Veda tries to supplement by shopping from stores directly but even that’s not enough these days.

“There’s times that you go to the grocery store and they don’t have the things that you need. It’s hard to tell your client...sorry...there’s just nothing left,” said Veda.

It’s tough on everyone but both women say the community has shown overwhelming support.

Right now, they say donating time, money and specific food items is critical. Some of the items in need are healthy fruit juice, cereal, soup, peanut butter, and canned protein like tuna or chicken.

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