Hospitality House in Commerce Township Executive Director Michael Fraley stands in front of a food storage room. Supply chain shortages and pricing increases have impacted local food pantries.

Hospitality House in Commerce Township Executive Director Michael Fraley stands in front of a food storage room. Supply chain shortages and pricing increases have impacted local food pantries.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Supply chain shortages, rising costs are impacting local food pantries

By: Mark Vest | Metro | Published November 18, 2021

 Pictured is Hospitality House volunteer and West Bloomfield resident Mary Ann McConnell. Hospitality House Executive Director Michael Fraley said the cost of certain foods has gone up, which means the nonprofit isn’t able to source as much of those items for people shopping at the nonprofit food pantry.

Pictured is Hospitality House volunteer and West Bloomfield resident Mary Ann McConnell. Hospitality House Executive Director Michael Fraley said the cost of certain foods has gone up, which means the nonprofit isn’t able to source as much of those items for people shopping at the nonprofit food pantry.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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METRO DETROIT — By now, every household has likely experienced the effects of supply chain and labor shortages in one way or another.

A shortage of supplies has impacted multiple industries, with different people being affected in different ways.

However, it is a shortage of some types of food that has caught people’s attention perhaps more so than anything else. And while food shortages can impact everyone, some are more hurt by it than others.

The primary role of food pantries and canned food drives is to get food into the hands of individuals and families who are going through a rough time, and that is coming with new challenges.

Hospitality House in Commerce Township is a nonprofit food pantry where people can shop for food free of charge.

Michael Fraley is Hospitality House’s executive director.

He said Hospitality House receives supplies from a number of different sources, including Forgotten Harvest.

“I had a conversation with them today, that they’re seeing less donated because of the shortages. So over the summer, we were getting, like, four pallets of food; now we’re only seeing, like, one pallet of food, and that impacts what we’re able to give to our clients,” Fraley said.

CARES in Farmington Hills also has a free food pantry. One way of helping to secure funds to supply the pantry is by having a Busch’s Market right on the CARES campus.

One of the effects of the supply shortages has been increased prices, and CARES Executive Director Todd Lipa has taken notice.

“We definitely have had (an) increase in everything we order in the free pantry, or in the market itself. We order food from our main supplier, which is Gleaner’s, and there’s been slight increases, especially in milk, meats and other things like that, only because they’re paying (more),” Lipa said of the pantry. “But in our market that we sell to anyone, we have definitely noticed higher prices on everything. … That gallon of milk that’s delivered now has a higher price because gas has gone up. … It’s a whole trickle-down effect.”

Lipa estimated that it was around March or April that he started to notice the increases, while also observing that it was sometimes “a little harder” to get some products than it was before.

“It impacts your bottom line,” he said. “We got a cost of getting the food to us and whatever those increases might be. … And then you’ve got the escalated cost to be able to package the foods that you have for the families that need our support. That whole cost escalates.”

An increase in prices has also gotten the attention of Fraley.

“The cost of certain foods has gone up,” he said. “So, meat, of course, has gone up, as well as the cost of cooking oils have gone really high. So we’re not able to source as much, or not at all, of those items just because we can’t afford it.”

Fraley said he thinks that “we’re just starting to see the effects” of supply chain issues.

“I think it is (going to) get a lot worse as stores aren’t able to get what they need, and we rely heavily from the donations from those stores,” he said. “If they can’t move a product in time, then that is usually what’s donated to us. We usually get things that are close to the expiration date, that they can no longer keep on their shelves. But if they have less, there’s not as much on that shelf. … If they’re not able to get as much, then we don’t have as much coming in, as far as our donations.”

The Farmington Area Goodfellows has an annual campaign to collect food and toys for about a three-week period in November. This year’s drive went through Nov. 23, and approximately 200 people are expected to help deliver what is collected to local residents Dec. 18.

When Goodfellows President Richard Lerner spoke in early November, he said it was still “too early” to know how things were going.

Lerner shared his primary concern about this year’s campaign.

“We are probably more worried about toys than food,” he said. “Food always manages to work itself out, even in the tough years. All the indications are it’s gonna be a tough season to get toys this year. … We rely on people going to stores and filling the Toys for Tots boxes.”

There is also another type of product that some residents may have noticed is short on supply.

“We also get pet food, as well, and we’ve been told that we can’t get the delivery of pet food due to staffing shortages,” Fraley said. “So I’ve offered to send someone to go pick it up in order to make sure that we can give the pet food to our clients.”

Since federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits ended in September, Fraley has noticed an increase in the number of people seeking food assistance from Hospitality House.

“As the unemployment insurance ended, we are starting to see more people coming back to the pantry and needing assistance again,” he said. “Multiple people are coming back, and we’re reintroducing them to the pantry. Our numbers are always fluctuating and changing, so one of the challenges is just making sure that we have or we are sourcing enough food to come in to feed those individuals, and that we have enough on the shelves for them.”

Lipa said that “the amount of money you have in your pocket today is a lot less than you had a while back.”

“The driving cost of things going up is always a concern because there are people cutting back and not getting the healthy things they’re looking for,” he said. “Are they buying less-quality food so they can still put the same amount on their table? Are people cutting back and hurting a little bit, so that’s the reason why our numbers in the food pantry are going back up? And are people being forced to cut back because of all the pricing increases on everything?”

Lipa expressed optimism about the potential for things to improve.

“I’m hoping that our leaders will find a way to solve some of the shortages that are out there manufacturing-wise; find ways to be able to help get product back on the shelves for people,” he said. “I heard someone today, I don’t know who it was, but they went shopping at one of the local markets, and a lot of the shelves were pretty bare. So that’s always a little bit of a concern. But I’m optimistic that we have smart people in leadership positions, that if they work together, we can make some changes and improve what we’re seeing as a struggle right now.”

For more information about Hospitality House, visit hhfp.org or call (248) 960-9975.

For more information about CARES, visit caresfh.org or call (248) 882-7800.

For more information about Farmington Area Goodfellows, visit goodfellows.info or call (248) 871-2848.

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