Turkey shortage, price increase may mean bleak holiday

     (<a href=Photo via ShutterStock) " title="turkeys_1200x675" width="640" height="360"/>

    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    The outbreak of avian flu in the Midwest earlier this year is making it difficult for groups in the Delaware Valley region that help feed the hungry.

    Tristan Wallack, the food-sourcing manager at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, said millions of turkeys were destroyed in the spring as a precaution, leading to a shortage and higher prices as Thanksgiving approaches.

    “We were able to lock in our prices. We paid $1.15 per pound,” he said Tuesday. “We just rechecked the prices out of curiosity. They were as high as $2.47 a pound.”

    Hunger remains a major issue, he said.

    “We have about 1.2 million New Jersey residents that are food insecure. They’ve been hit pretty hard because of the economic downturn, Wallack said. “Even though we’re on an upswing, the damage has already been done … people spent their savings and are now having a hard time trying to make ends meet.”

    Tom Sims, chief development officer at the Food Bank of South Jersey, said the organizations still needs thousands of turkeys to help needy families have one on their Thanksgiving table.

    “We are pretty certain that we’re going to have a difficult time gathering up those turkeys, asking for the community to supply a turkey or donate one, and certainly difficult to go out and purchase those turkeys as needed,” Sims said.

    Demand for the items the food banks distribute is increasing even as the economy shows improvement.

    “So it becomes less of an issue of, ‘Well, these are people who are on maybe some sort of public assistance.’

    “It’s not that at all. It’s folks who are having one, maybe two jobs, they’re still struggling just to put food on the table,” Sims said.

    The food banks are hoping holiday collections over the next few weeks will bring in the needed supplies.

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