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Supply chain issues bring Thanksgiving woes for local consumers, food banks

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As supply chain issues limit inventory and drive up grocery prices, Thanksgiving could look a little different for North Texas families this year.

Retailers and food banks are feeling the pinch of depleted inventory, with supplies of turkeys over 60% out of stock and cranberry sauce, yams, sweet potatoes and stuffing in short supply, according to data from market research firm IRI. With U.S. consumer prices up 6.2% in October, Denton County shoppers are seeing bigger bills at checkout and difficulties getting Thanksgiving staples.

“We actually have signs up that say no ham or turkey for the holiday season,” Denton Community Food Center board chairman Tom Newell said. “You don’t see the grocery stores doing ‘buy one, get one.’ A lot of people used to buy their turkey and bring up the extra one — we don’t see those kinds of donations coming in anymore.”

Some national retailers the organization partners with have halted special orders through the end of the year as they try to keep shelves stocked. Those retailers the center is able to get supplies through have come with a higher price tag, Newell said. Food prices in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area increased 1.3% in the two months ending in September, with the cost of food at home up 6.6% for the year due mainly to an increase in prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs.

Percent change in CPI-U

DCFC was able to provide ham and turkeys for holiday meals last year thanks to county CARES Act dollars, but those funds are no longer available to help offset increased costs. As inflation has risen across the state, the center also has seen demand increase over the past two months, climbing 14% since summer, when it was serving about 140 families per day.

At First Refuge Ministries, which distributes about 20,000 pounds of food weekly through its pantries, demand also has been up — and donations harder to come by.

“The big challenge is having food to give to the families especially when it comes to protein items such as meat, dairy items, eggs — those have become a little bit more scarce,” said Izell Bennett, director of food distribution at First Refuge. “Those key items that a lot of families enjoy for Thanksgiving, such as stuffing and cranberry sauce and even turkeys, have been really hard to come by. We have a partnership with Albertsons, we have a partnership with Winco and Aldi, and we also get donations from other local distributions. But even those have been scaled back because their supplies, and what they’re able to get in their inventory looks a little different.”

The Village Church Denton also has experienced some difficulty sourcing supplies for its annual Thanksgiving banquet at Calhoun Middle School, where volunteers typically serve about 2,000 locals. The church does not take private food donations but is sourcing from local retailers, where ordering in large quantities has been a challenge, associate minister of operations Stephanie Mabe said.

National food producers Butterball and Ocean Spray have acknowledged supply chain issues. For consumers and food banks, smaller turkeys are scarce, with the few available selling out quickly as families look to downsize the Thanksgiving centerpiece.

“Turkey supply is somewhat limited this year due to labor challenges and packing material,” Kroger Corporate Affairs Manager James Menees told WSLS-TV in Virginia. “Average turkey size is 16-18 pounds, so anyone looking for a smaller turkey should look to buy as soon as possible.”

North Texans planning to travel for the holiday also can expect to pay more. Gas prices continued their upward trend this week, rising 2 cents across the state. Energy costs in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington region have risen 6.2% for the two months ending in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For Denton area food banks, the focus remains on keeping people fed, even if it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving meal. DCFC and First Refuge have been participating in biweekly calls with other nonprofits in the county to share resources. Though the calls were originally set up to coordinate emergency funds, they have now become a space to try to help one another meet the needs of local families.

“Without a doubt, we will provide food for families — we’re not going to come up short on that,” Newell said. “We want families to come together and have a meal and celebrate the holiday, but it might not be with a turkey or a ham.”

AMBER GAUDET can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @amb_balam.

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