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With demand skyrocketing, Snohomish County food banks being forced to ration

Volunteers of America in Snohomish County is cutting its distribution by 50%.

EVERETT, Wash. — Workers at Volunteers of America's Everett food bank said they've never seen the shelves so empty. 

They thought the need was great at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it's even worse.

Volunteers of America Western Washington provides food to 17 food banks across Snohomish County. Since April, demand has exploded 138% and the food is starting to run out.

The organization is being forced to ration food for the first time ever.

"You should consider this watermark a scary one, all things considered," said the organization's Vice President of community engagement Steve Woodard.

A food bank is the last place Beverly Brown ever thought she'd end up. However, after losing her home, here she is.

"Here I am so I guess I am living it. I can't imagine I'm here," Brown said, half laughing and half crying. "My name is Beverly and I'm homeless because a fire destroyed my home."

Brown is one of the many now being greeted with bad news as they sign up for free food. For the foreseeable future, clients can no longer get food every week. They can only come two times per month.

"Oh, gosh. My heart is heavy," said volunteer Wendy McCoard. "This food is a lifesaver for people."

Inflation is the driving factor. Nationwide, the cost of meat rose more than 8% in June. Bread jumped nearly 11%. Canned vegetables skyrocketed more than 14%.

At the same time, children are out of school and not receiving free lunches. Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees are arriving in Snohomish County. Government pandemic funds are running out, as is people's willingness to give.

Volunteers of America is growing desperate.

"This system has always relied upon the goodwill and nature and action of our residents, and folks recognizing that I have a connection to you even if I don't know you. It's important that I support you and your family because you're part of our community," said Woodard.

That community consists of people like Beverly Brown, who is now forced to rely on the food bank to feed her family.

She worries that her fragile safety net is in danger of coming apart, too.

"I mean, honestly, I don't know what I would be doing without these people," she said.

Federal forecasters don't expect food prices or the need for food to drop anytime soon.

WATCH: Feds attack inflation with largest rate hike since 1994

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