Adjusting to the 2012 Drought

Any rise in food prices will increase client visits to food pantries. That's obvious. But how much will the drought affect us?

Everyone understands that this summer's drought is resulting in higher food prices. But what does it mean for Care for Real?

First and foremost, it means a huge increase in client visits. Last month clients came to the pantry more than 4500 times. Our best guess is that, by August 2013, we will be facing 6,700 client visits each month, or an increase of 40%.

We came to this conclusion by taking the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate of the expected increase in food prices (3% to the end of 2012, and 3.5% in 2013) and calculating, based on our experience over the last five years, how much each percent increase in food prices has increased our client load. It's a staggering 13%.

It seems like such a ridiculous increase that we questioned the results and researched a variety of factors that might move the numbers up or down. We looked at rent, household income, unemployment and transportation costs. There we found mostly discouraging trends.

For Chicago, rents are up. Nationally, from 2009 to 2012, household income is down. Gas prices, as a substitute for transportation, are up. Employment numbers are up, and for Chicago, substantially so. But in the short run there is not enough positive news in jobs narrative to convince us that past patterns won't hold for the future.

In 2007, CFR served 700 clients a month. Toward the end of last year we averaged over 5,000. Our larger facility, better intake systems and software, increased storage and refrigeration, greater numbers of volunteers and expanded ability to pick up donated food from many, many more venues than only a few years ago have enabled us to keep up with demand.

We believe that, because of past efforts here, we can manage this challenge by working together and stepping it up another notch. But we want to start now, not after it becomes a crisis.

There are several ways for all of us to work together on this.

First, donate:

Second, food drives and volunteering - if you haven't done it before, let us get you started! E-mail:

Last, spread the word. If this information resonates with you, share it with others, publish it, like it on Facebook, use it however you talk with people.

Care for Real   5339 N. Sheridan Rd.  Chicago, IL  60640  (773) 769-6182