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"Shrinkflation" forcing community shelters to feed more people with less

More people are relying on food pantries to get by as pandemic-era resources go away and grocery costs increase. More demand and less supply means community resources are being stretched thin.
Posted at 6:04 AM, May 17, 2024

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — You've likely experienced "shrinkflation," but maybe you haven't necessarily noticed it.

That's certainly not the case for area shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries as they're forced to feed more people with less food and fewer donations.

The New Community Shelter offers nightly dinner to people in need, and leaders say they're noticing a trend of new people relying on their help as the cost of nearly everything increases and pandemic-era resources are expiring.

"Prices are up, but everything is a little bit smaller," said New Community Shelter and CEO Terri Refsguard.

"Yes, it's concerning, but I also just don't focus on that. I focus on the goodness of people," said New Community Shelter volunteer Otis Roberson.

Roberson and Resguard say they're both feeling the impacts of "shrinkflation."

That's when suppliers reduce the size or quantity of products while keeping the same price—or sometimes—inflating the price.

Both Roberson and Refsguard say they're constantly looking for ways to feed new people with less food which is creating a two-fold problem that only seems to be getting worse.

"It is. It's scary, because when is it going to stop? It keeps going up. What I've noticed recently is we're getting less and less donations from the community of food," Refsguard said.

"What do I do? I used to get it for this price, and it's heart wrenching a little bit, but the blessing is you have places like the New Community Shelter," Roberson said.

Refsguard said she's personally experienced shrinkflation when shopping for groceries, "but, when you think of a shelter where we serve meals 365 days a year, anywhere from 150 to 200 people, that is expensive, and that is going up."

NBC 26 Today's MacLeod Hageman asked Roberson, "have you personally experienced more folks coming in recently?"

Before even finishing the question, Roberson responded, "oh yeah, exactly!"

Roberson says as the weather also gets warmer, more people in need throughout northeast Wisconsin are traveling to Green Bay for help.

He says smaller surrounding communities don't have the resources like the New Community Shelter to feed people in need.

Roberson says he tries focusing on how many people he's helping every day instead of worrying about the shrinking portions.

"I don't dwell on it much, but I do see it. I try to lift people up and show them there are places. Don't be ashamed. That's the main reason why I come back here, to let them know that I was once there too," Roberson said.

Refsguard says they offer dinner every night of the year from 5 PM to 6 PM.

Refsguard adds she's noticing fewer donations—food and money—are coming to the shelter as more people are struggling to make ends meet.

She says if you'd like to help make a difference in someone's life, you can always make a donation, whether it's money or food.