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Shipping backlog leading to less supply at food banks in western Washington

Supply chain issues are driving up the cost of food, meaning Northwest Harvest can't buy as much as they used to with the same amount of money.

SEATTLE — The supply chain backlog is hitting close to home, and it's impacting people who may need the most help this holiday season. 

Christina Wong with Northwest Harvest said local food banks are seeing the fallout in two big ways. 

"We're seeing an increased need at our doors," Wong said. "We're also seeing it impact us in terms of the cost of food that we are purchasing to distribute as well."

Currently, the cost of nearly everything is on the rise. That means families on a tight budget can't get as much for their money as they used to, at a time when more people are seeking out help from food banks. 

For the food bank, that means more mouths to feed, compounding the issue. Northwest Harvest's dollars are also being stretched thin. The organization can't buy as much as they used to with the same amount of money, leading to a decrease in supply.

"It's been a crunch on everyone," said Gary Newte, Director of Procurement with Northwest Harvest. 

Supply chain issues have not only increased the cost of food and goods, the cost of trucking and shipping items to western Washington is also on the rise. 

"Transportation itself has added 25 to 30 percent just in transportation to the normal cost of sourcing and procuring food," Newte said. "What has traditionally taken seven to ten business days on a purchase, has at times taken eight to ten weeks."

There are also fewer volunteers available during the pandemic, which means less help to package bulk items, which has forced Northwest Harvest to buy prepackaged items which tend to be more expensive. 

Lastly, donations have been harder to come by.

"Has that impacted who usually donates? Yes absolutely, um there are many grower-producers that are at times not able to meet the demands of their vendors or their retail partners, so that trickles down to us and our opportunities," Newte said.

That's Northwest Harvest needs help this year more than ever. 

"I don't see it as much different than last holiday season. I imagine that we may go through potentially another holiday season with the need before there's a real, a real visible recovery," Newte said.