We’ve come to expect the bare shelves.
First, it was toilet paper. Most recently, it has been baby formula.
Now, the shortage of labor, especially truckers, has begun to hit the most vulnerable members of society: Those who rely on food pantries for meals.
The Greater Boston Food Bank has seen its workforce cut in half, forcing the non-profit to ship less to the 600 pantries it serves, including those in the Attleboro area.
For the Hebron Food Pantry, which serves Attleboro, that has reduced the pounds of food it receives each week from 8,500 to 7,000, a loss of 17.6%. This comes at a time when the local pantry has seen an increase of 50 clients, up from its usual 350.
“It’s a huge hit,” Heather Porreca, vice president of Hebron pantry’s board of directors, told The Sun Chronicle’s George W. Rhodes.
The trucker shortage has been a national issue for years but grew worse last year because the COVID-19 pandemic closed training and apprenticeship or limited their operations. The industry in 2021 was short a record 80,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations, a trade group.
Long-haul drivers, who often face grueling routes and can be on the road for weeks at a time, are in especially short supply.
According to the federal Transportation Department, roughly 300,000 truck drivers leave the profession every year.
Trucking is vital to the American economy, and the shortage is among the factors driving up inflation. As those in the industry like to say, if you bought it, a truck brought it.
Roughly 70% of freight in the U.S. is delivered by trucks. Additionally, 80% of the country is entirely dependent on trucking for daily deliveries of essential goods like food, water, toilet paper, personal protective equipment and vaccines.
President Joe Biden has launched a campaign to recruit more veterans and women to the trucking industry. But even if the effort is successful, it will be months if not years before we see an impact.
In the meantime, we can all pitch in to ease food insecurity locally.
The Hebron Food Pantry will accept food, cash or gift cards from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays at its office in the basement of the United Methodist Centenary Church, 11 Sanford St., Attleboro.
In addition, a food drive is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 21, in the parking lot behind Attleboro Jewelers on Riverbank Road off Country Street. Needed are pasta and sauces, peanut butter, personal care items, feminine products and baby formula. Out-of-date items cannot be accepted.
Please consider pitching in so we can avoid bare shelves at our local food pantries.