Americans Cut Back on Holiday Food Donations Due to Inflation, Study Reveals

In 2022, nearly half of Americans said they were more likely to donate to food banks during the holiday season but this year it’s just 25 percent.
Americans Cut Back on Holiday Food Donations Due to Inflation, Study Reveals
A staff member at Food Bank of the Rockies stocks boxes of food in their warehouse to be distributed to people in need ahead of Thanksgiving in Denver, Colo., on Nov. 25, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt/Reuters)
Tom Ozimek
11/23/2023
Updated:
11/23/2023
0:00

Americans are cutting back on charitable food donations this holiday season, with a new study showing that the top reason for the pullback in generosity on Thanksgiving and ahead of Christmas is inflation.

High prices in general (and of groceries in particular) are having a significant impact on the willingness of Americans to donate food during the 2023 holiday season, according to the study released on Nov. 20 by technology company Divert, Inc., which focuses on food waste reduction.

Even though inflation eased to roughly 3.2 percent year-over-year in October from its recent peak of 9 percent in June 2022, the cumulative increase since President Joe Biden took office has been around 20 percent.

Grocery prices—the “food at home” category in the Consumer Price Index (CPI)—have been on a tear over the past few years, hitting a whopping 13.5 percent in August 2022.
But even though the latest data shows that the pace of grocery cart inflation has fallen to 2.1 percent as of October 2023, the cumulative impact on U.S. consumers has been significant—and it has made them less likely to give.

Food Donations Decline

The Divert study shows a sharp drop in the willingness of Americans to make charitable food donations this holiday season compared to the last.

In 2022, nearly half (46 percent) of Americans said they were more likely to donate to food banks during that year’s holiday season.

This year, however, just 25 percent said the same thing, according to Divert report, and that’s despite the fact that demand for food banks this holiday season is expected to surge.

“Those who are donating less to food banks this season cite increasing food and grocery costs as the number one reason driving their decision,” the report states.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data on the state of household food security shows that the hunger problem in America is growing rapidly. In 2022, 17 million households reported being food insecure, up significantly from 2021 (13.5 million households) and 2020 (13.8 million households). These numbers translate to roughly 44 million people living in food insecure households in 2022, a 31 percent increase compared to 2021.

With growing food insecurity comes increased demand for food bank use.

The Feeding America network of over 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs said in a recent press release that there’s been an increase in demand for food assistance this year—with the organization blaming high food prices.

Last year, one out of six Americans turned to food banks and other charitable food providers, with Feeding America saying it expects that to go up this year, in large part because the high prices of groceries are making food less affordable for many families.

“For millions of people, the holiday season can look very different as they turn to food banks to help provide nourishment for their families,” said Casey Marsh, Chief Development Officer at Feeding America.

A pallet of Similac infant formula at a drive-thru food distribution organized by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in West Covina, Calif., on Dec. 29, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)
A pallet of Similac infant formula at a drive-thru food distribution organized by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in West Covina, Calif., on Dec. 29, 2020. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

High inflation isn’t just sapping Americans’ propensity to donate to food banks; it’s also having a significant impact on other consumer behaviors.

Nearly 72 percent of Americans changed their grocery shopping habits in 2023 due to high inflation and food costs, per the Divert study. This includes 76 percent of households shopping for discounted food and 17 percent saying they’re eating more food that’s past its prime.

Inflation a ‘War On The Spirit’

Commenting on high food prices and good insecurity issues, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue told Fox News that inflation is sapping the holiday spirit.

“We’re having problems all over the world with food issues,” Mr. Unanue said, citing a 64 percent increase in the price of cans, which has forced canned food producers to raise their prices. Goya Foods is one of America’s largest food suppliers.

Mr. Unanue blamed the “terrible” Biden administration for fueling “out-of-control inflation.”

“And it’s not only on the working class and on fossil fuels,” Mr. Unanue continued, presumably referring to the Biden administration’s push to phase out fossil fuel use in the name of climate change.

“It’s a war on the spirit,” Mr. Unanue said.

Even though Thanksgiving dinner this year will be about 4.5 percent cheaper than in 2022, prices of the classic holiday meal are still roughly 25 percent higher than they were in 2019, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“We need to move back to God and bring our country back and bring in Donald J. Trump,” he added.

Harlem residents pack free groceries at the Food Bank For New York City on Dec. 11, 2013 (John Moore/Getty Images)
Harlem residents pack free groceries at the Food Bank For New York City on Dec. 11, 2013 (John Moore/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump issued two very contrasting Thanksgiving messages on Nov. 23.
In the first, President Trump wished a happy Thanksgiving “to ALL” before singling out for sharp criticism a number of prominent figures featuring in his numerous legal battles and political spats.

He also took aim at President Joe Biden, whom he called “Crooked” and accused of having “WEAPONIZED his Department of Injustice” against a political opponent and “allowed our Country to go to HELL.”

In his second Thanksgiving message, this one in video format, the former president gave thanks to the creator and praised the men and women in uniform who serve and protect the United States.

The former president then went on to call the current times “difficult” for the nation, hinting at the various issues facing the country, including deep political divisions and the illegal immigration crisis along the southern border.