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DMARC seeing rising demand at metro food pantries

Pantry use in May 2022 was up 60% compared to 2021.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Money's tight for a lot of families right now; there's no way around that. 

Inflation and rising fuel costs are just a few reasons families might be struggling to put food on the table, and there's more people dealing with that reality than you might expect.

According to the Des Moines Area Religious Council, visits to their pantries in April were up 40% from last year's numbers. In May, visits increased 60% compared to May 2021. DMARC employees said there's no sign of these trends slowing down any time soon.

"With children being out of school as well, we always see kind of a bump in use in the summer. I think we're going to continue to see higher numbers throughout the summer and into the fall," said Luke Elzinga, Communications & Advocacy Manager for DMARC.

In April and May, more than 1,000 people made their first-ever visit to one of DMARC's pantries, another sign of the increasing need for food assistance. 

But what's driving that? One possible factor is the additional SNAP benefits distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic which recently expired. 

Over two months after losing her SNAP benefits, she said it's been an difficult change to deal with.

RELATED: Iowans prepare for emergency SNAP benefits to expire in April

"I was able to stockpile some canned foods. So lots of soup and lots of tuna fish. And that's what I've been living off of the past two months for the majority," Kramer said.

Kramer isn't alone in that struggle. More than 15,000 people received food assistance from DMARC in May alone. 

While pantries work to keep their shelves stocked, Kramer said she's worried about the situation improving in the long term. She's traded meals with neighbors and received food from a local church. But without a major change on the horizon, she just feels stuck.

"It's not sustainable. Someone can get me a meal for supper to get me going for the day, but then the next day, I feel like I'm back to square one again," Kramer said.

If you'd like to organize a donation to one of DMARC's pantries, you can find information about how to do that here.

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