AUSTIN (KXAN) — Over the past several months, demand levels have risen at the Central Texas Food Bank, with an average of 370,000 people served each month. Now, top nonprofit leaders said that number of people seeking services is at or surpassing levels seen at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — making for a “perfect storm” of food insecurity in Central Texas.

“It’s a perfect storm of a couple of things,” said Mark Jackson, chief development officer at CTFB. “Primarily, the reduction in the pandemic-era SNAP benefits earlier in the spring, coupled with the massive increase in inflation and the cost of living in Austin. And it’s just really putting a pinch on families and making it hard for them to keep food on the table.”

The holidays have historically been a busier time of year for the food bank, he said. However, demand levels have steadily increased for the past four to five months. There’s also currently a higher ratio of need in rural areas within CTFB’s 21-county service scope.

Within rural areas comes the added complexity of further sprawl – many resources are located further away and more difficult to access, Jackson said.

“One in seven people are at risk of hunger. One in five children are at risk of hunger in the 21 counties we serve,” he said. “But we definitely see different types of hunger and different types of need.”

Financial stresses haven’t only impacted the people they serve, but have added challenges to CTFB from an operational standpoint. Monetary donations haven’t kept up with food demand levels, and Jackson said CTFB is spending nearly $1 million each month to supplement its donations with food purchases.

Even with that, he said the agency is still falling short of meeting that need by about 25%.

“We’re just encouraging folks…if you can dig deep and make those monetary donations, we will leverage it as much as possible and make sure we can get as much healthy, nutritious food out there.”

Those interested in learning more can visit CTFB’s website to make an online donation, track down volunteer opportunities or even local resources near you through its “Find Food Now” tool. This Sunday, CTFB will host its Austin Empty Bowl Project event, a way for people to purchase decorated bowls from local ceramicists and children. The event also serves soup from community restaurant partners, while giving back proceeds to CTFB.

KXAN’s Friendsgiving Challenge is another opportunity to give back to CTFB. KXAN Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans and Morning Meteorologist Kristen Currie are competing to raise monetary donations for CTFB, with both Yeomans and Currie eyeing a $50,000 targeted fundraising goal.