United Way, Treasure Coast Food Bank feeling pinch of supply chain issues, rising prices

'I don't want anyone in our community not to have a good holiday,' United Way president says
Treasure Coast Food Bank gift bags with Christmas tree in foreground
Posted at 5:31 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 17:31:26-05

STUART, Fla. — Tightening the lug nuts and filling tires with air, volunteers were busy Tuesday building hundreds of bicycles for the United Way of Martin County's holiday project, which is fueled by Toys for Tots.

"I don't want anyone in our community not to have a good holiday," Carol Houwaart-Diez, president and CEO of the United Way of Martin County, told WPTV.

But supply chain issues and rising food costs are creating two major challenges this year. In years past, the United Way would buy the bikes at a deep discount.

"We're all now fighting for bikes, ordering them online, trying to find them at local stores, and it's been really difficult," Houwaart-Diez said.

So this year they're paying more for the bikes, which means they're not able to purchase as many.

Toys have also been harder to get in stock for the 1,600 kids in this community.

Then, there's the rising cost of food.

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"If you take an average out of the last eight or nine months, we're looking at a little over $100,000 what we would normally spend in a normal year," Judy Cruz, president and CEO of the Treasure Coast Food Bank, said.

Cruz told WPTV the food bank is also feeling the impact and has been forced to dip into its reserve fund. Between trucker and supply shortages, the food bank is feeling the pinch.

"For the holiday, our costs tripled, but we still want to make sure that we continue to bring a traditional holiday meal to everybody," Cruz said.

Back in Martin County, the United Way is trying to do the same. Hundreds of red bags are typically filled to the brim with canned goods and non-perishable food, but now organizers are hoping the supplies come in on time before its distribution, so families can have more options.

"If not, our bags will be a little light, but families will still have a nice meal," Houwaart-Diez said. "It just won't be as much as it used to be in the past."

Despite the challenges, the community has stepped up by donating more bikes this year, and the United Way said it just learned it has been able to secure about 700 turkeys for its distribution next week.

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