West News Wire: Kendall Nunamaker and her five-person family in Kennewick, Washington, were presented with hard math this month: how to pay for petrol, groceries, and the mortgage while inflation drove up costs.

The Nunamakers, like many other working families, are dealing with the 8.3 percent increase in the consumer price index in April, according to the Labor Department, which is down somewhat from the March figure, which was the highest year-over-year increase since 1981. The national average gas price hit a new high of $4.40 per gallon on Wednesday. And worldwide food costs are rising as a result of supply chain challenges and shortages created by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Food banks across America say those economic conditions are intensifying demand for their support at a time when their labor and distribution costs are climbing and donations are slowing. The problem has grown to the point where last week President Joe Biden called for a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in September, the first since 1969.

For many families like the Nunamakers, food insecurity became a painful surprise.

“There’s no reason us as a couple and a family should be struggling so hard,” Nunamaker said. “We make decent money.”

She works three days a week at a home décor store for $15.25 an hour; her husband, Nick, works a full-time union job as a paratransit driver at $27 an hour. Though they receive some money from a state nutrition program for young children that their two youngest qualify for, they still spent $360 on groceries last week.

Because of inflated prices, those groceries didn’t go far enough to feed everyone. And the family still lacked money to pay other household bills, leaving Nunamaker wondering how she would stretch their next paychecks to cover those bills and their mortgage this month.

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In the past, to bridge the gap, the family sold off possessions like VR headsets and firearms.

“At some point,” Nunamaker said, “we’re not going to have anything because we would have sold everything.”

So Nunamaker and her husband visited two local food banks for the first time last week.

The pandemic forced roughly 60 million Americans to seek help for food insecurity, according to Feeding America. At the end of 2021, as hiring boomed, demand for food banks returned to regular levels. But the relief was short-lived.

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