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Salvation Army says rising costs creating challenges

With the average Bahamian feeling the brunt of rising costs associated with inflation, at least one charity said skyrocketing costs and crippling supply chain issues are making it even more challenging to help those in need.

Melanese Coakley McKenzie, the community relations and development associate at The Salvation Army Bahamas, said the charity has seen costs increase by at least 15 to 20 percent; and while costs are increasing, so are the number of people looking for assistance.

She said each day on average, The Salvation Army’s kitchen serves 100 people hot meals and 70 people cold meals.

McKenzie said to cut costs, The Salvation Army has had to reduce the days it serves hot lunches and instead provide cold lunches.

“Of course, there is an increase in the cost of every item that we purchase. In our kitchen, we serve meals five days a week. Mondays through Fridays we serve lunch. Three days are hot meals and two days are cold meals, which means sandwiches, fruits, those types of items. That’s how we’ve had to adjust to the rising cost in food. When you’re thinking about a hot meal for us, it could be chicken, it could be bologna, it could be turkey, and all of those things there has been a rise in cost,” she told Guardian Business yesterday.

“Also, sometimes there is the challenge of not being able to receive your inventory because your supplier is out of stock, so we’re just thinking creatively of what we are going to substitute. Thankfully we’ve had donors that still remember us and make purchases at wholesalers, so when we’re at our lowest, God works it out and we receive items the next day.”

The Bahamas is expected to see inflation as high as eight percent this year. Already, as of June, inflation has surged six percent over the same period last year, fueled by global supply chain issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

McKenzie said each week The Salvation Army assists dozens of families with food parcels. She said in recent months, more and more working Bahamians have been coming forward looking for extra assistance.

“When you’re talking about our parcel program, definitely there’s a challenge. The numbers are growing, we’ve seen it. Summer time is a little different because now you have students outside of school, so with children home, parents are now trying to supplement their incomes due to the rising costs. So you’re trying to creatively add items that won’t just assist the general family needs, but during the summer you need other snack items. It could be challenging, we get fresh fruit sometimes and those things go out first. Those families that have children with them, we try to prioritize dietary needs,” she said.

“There are times when we just don’t have it, it’s just not there. But we realize the challenge and try. People who come to us, we explain to them the bag you’re getting today may not be the normal size and may not have a, b and c. we ask them if they still want it or if they want to wait, because sometimes we’re waiting on supplies from the wholesaler.

“For instance, cereal is one of those things we include in our bags. We got cereal back in June that lasted us up until July, but what we had to do was split the cereal bags because you can no longer give a whole box of cereal, because then someone won’t have. It’s not that we don’t want to give it, it’s just that the suppliers don’t have it. So we are experiencing an increase, about 15 to 20 percent. And it’s the quantity you’re purchasing. You may not be able to put four cans of tuna in a parcel bag, you may only be able to put two because you are trying to meet a number of persons per week but still give a quality bag.”

Prime Minister Philip Davis has said his administration won’t stand idly by as Bahamians suffer under the weight of rising prices.

Although the government reduced customs duties on a multitude of foods and reduced value-added tax from 12 percent to ten percent this year, many continue to lament that their dollars are not taking them as far as they used to.

Last week, after months of petitioning from the industry, the prime minister said the Cabinet is working out a deal with retail petroleum dealers to lower the amount of taxes charged on gasoline, so that those savings could be passed on to customers.

Still, regardless of those measures, The Central Bank of The Bahamas has said Bahamians haven’t felt the real brunt of inflation yet, as its governor warned that price hikes are expected to continue well into the rest of the year and possibly early 2023.