High food cost and demand combined with fewer donations forces larger PROP budget

Eden Prairie’s largest social service provider is among those bearing higher food costs due to inflation.

PROP purchases much of the food it provides to local families in need, and various factors, including inflation, have caused its food costs to be 45% over budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year which ended on June 30, said general manager Jenifer Loon. .

Other factors responsible for higher-than-expected food costs were dwindling in-kind donations through food drives hosted by churches and businesses, many of which still have employees working from home during this COVID recovery period. In-kind food donations for the year were 20% lower than expected, Loon said.

At the same time, the number of people requiring PROP services has increased. “The real crisis has been delayed,” Loon said of the growing demand for food and other aid. “The rush is coming now.”

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Over the past 12 months, PROP has seen a 22% increase in the number of households and clients requiring services, and a 10% increase in the number of new clients. A total of 1,207 households were served, including 330 new ones.

The numbers have forced PROP to significantly increase its food budget for the 12-month period which began July 1, and so there is added pressure to deliver on its food and fundraising campaigns.

One of these is the Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless campaign in which a portion of all financial donations to PROP in July are matched as it aims to raise $50,000. Another effort where matching funds are available is the Summer Food for Kids program which helps provide nutritious meals to children who are home for the summer and do not receive school meals.

Information on these programs, as well as an up-to-date list of essential food items, can be found on the PROP website, www.propfood.org.

PROP is also looking for a good turnout for the August 2 Night to Unite community event, where Eden Prairie neighborhoods come together for social time and community building, often collecting food for PROP as part of of their activities. The event has traditionally given the PROP food shelf a big boost, Loon said, in a season when overall food donations can be meager. (The district’s registration for Night to Unite 2022 ended on July 22.)

“We hope to start our fiscal year very strong,” said Loon.

The double whammy of increasing demand for social services and higher food costs due to inflation is not only faced by PROP. Statewide, food aisle visits between December and June of this year increased 57%, according to preliminary data compiled by Hunger Solutions Minnesota, and food aisles are paying more for the groceries they purchase, including meat and eggs.

July figures showed the U.S. consumer price index rose 9.1% from a year ago, reflecting rising gasoline, housing and food costs.

When PROP purchases food, it usually comes from non-profit 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.

Additionally, there are a number of community gardens that supply fresh produce to PROP, and Loon has encouraged other gardeners to donate their surplus fresh vegetables to the food shelf.

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