By ASHRAF KHALIL
WASHINGTON (AP) — Food banks are experiencing a critical shortage of volunteers as the omicron variant frightens people away from group activities. Individual volunteers are shying away from their usual shifts, and companies and schools that regularly supply large groups of volunteers are canceling their participation over virus fears. The end result in many cases has been a serious increase in spending by the food banks at a time when they’re already dealing with higher food costs due to inflation and supply chain issues. The extent of the problem was highlighted this past week during the national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when many food banks have traditionally organized mass volunteer drives as part of a day of service.