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Gas prices taking toll on food distribution nonprofits

Posted at 5:59 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 17:59:18-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Price increase at the pump are causing extra stress for food distribution nonprofits that rely on transportation to bring food to people who need it.

4MyCity works for reduce food waste by rescuing unused food from grocery stores or manufacturers and then partnering with organizations to distribute it.

Since the pandemic started, they’ve seen an increase in need, as well as rising costs of food and now gas.

“It’s taken a drastic toll on our budget as a nonprofit,” said 4MyCity founder Christopher Dipnarine. “Our families need that support and they need it more than ever now.”

“Personally I’m paying over $100 a week in gas expenses just related to this work,” said Matt Burke, Food Rescue Baltimore executive director.

Food Rescue Baltimore partners with 4MyCity and relies on their volunteers using their personal cars to take food into communities for a dozen giveaways a week.

“At what point does this become too expensive for the volunteers involved?” said Burke. “If we as ordinary people cannot afford to continue to do this work then the work is not going to be done and that’s the unfortunate reality we are facing right now.”

“It’s really disheartening,” said Christine Garrahan, operations director for Baltimore’s So What Else.

The gas prices are also impacting the people they serve. Garrahan has noticed less people coming to their neighborhood markets.

“Just that little bit of distance is frightening because they don’t have the money to put in their gas tanks,” said Garrahan.

It’s also having a significant impact on Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

“We have a fleet of 35 vans that fans out across the state of Maryland every day and that’s going to amount to thousands of dollars in increased expenses,” said Stephanie Archer-Smith, executive director of Meals on Wheels.

Archer-Smith believes it’s keeping new volunteers from signing up to help.

“We’ve definitely seen that slowdown in the last couple of weeks and that is critical because we are serving about 500 more people a day post-pandemic than we were pre-pandemic,” said Archer-Smith.

With a 60 percent drop in donations so far this year at 4MyCity, they hope some relief will come, or eventually it will impact how many families they can serve.

“The reason is that we are diverting so much money now into just expenses that we have to cut back on some of our rescues,” said Dipnarine.

Advocates said a long-term solution is also needed to address food insecurity in many areas of the city.

“These are neighborhoods where the residents are suffering from above average rates of diabetes, above average rates of heart disease, of easily preventable things if given access to the right nutritious food but if we’re not able to provide that access then their health is compromised,” said Burke.