Local businesses, nonprofits suffering under inflation, supply issues

Like its residents, West Alabama organizations that rely on local businesses and the generosity of others are suffering at the hands of supply chain distribution issues and ever-rising inflation.

Leaders of the West Alabama Food Bank and Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl said they’re having more trouble than ever ensuring there’s enough food to go around.

The Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl doesn’t get any federal or national support, meaning they operate thanks to community donations, said Executive Director Susan Lavender.

“Donations on our food are down,” she said. “Monetary donations are still coming in, but we need everything we can get. We are having to purchase more food and supplies than we ever have before.”

More than 8,000 people get help from the TCSB every month, and 300 to 400 people are served every day.

“There is a very big need for food in the community,” Lavender said. “I think with the economic consequences that have happened recently, we are seeing more and more people coming in.”

Tuscaloosa resident Robert Harris said he visits the Soup Bowl regularly, and they’ve been taking care of their patrons no matter the cost.

“I just want everyone to know this place is free, and God is good to open up doors for us,” Harris said.

Meanwhile, the West Alabama Food Bank is responsible for food security among the area’s nine counties and the organization’s 93 partner agencies.

Executive Director Jean Rykaczewski said although they receive federal support, they’d be lost without donations from the community.

“We order food and it gets canceled,” she said. “We order it and we think it will come in this week and then they cancel it because they can’t find a driver to bring it to us or the food we ordered is not available.”

The food bank also relies on grocery stores providing food they can no longer sell, but these days that avenue is dwindling, too.

Many smaller nonprofits rely on the West Alabama Food Bank for much of the supplies they distribute, including the Salvation Army, the Community Soup Bowl and churches that run food pantries, Rykaczewski said.

“We try to help anybody who needs food, and they become a partner of ours,” she said.

When the West Alabama Food Bank can’t get food, those agencies can’t distribute as much to those in need.

“We don’t want to cut back on distributing to people,” she said. “That’s our last move. We will take care of everything else before that happens.”

The Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl and West Alabama Food Bank are always looking for donations and volunteers.

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