With record high rates of unemployment across the United States(1) this past year and as we are entering month nine of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, millions of families are struggling to make ends meet and utilizing food banks in order to help them do so. Over the summer, there was a 60% average increase in the demand for food assistance at Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries as compared to the year before(2). 40% of those utilizing the food banks during this time were first time users, meaning they had never had to rely on food banks or pantries to supply them with food before. This speaks to the number of individuals and families who once had stable incomes and have now lost their jobs or had a decrease in their hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Feeding America estimates that 1 in 6 Americans may face hunger as a result of the pandemic(3).
Furthermore, this increase in demand for food banks results in a greater need for storage space to hold food and therefore an added cost for organizations that are already stretched thin and doing the best they can to support their communities. Food banks and pantries are in need of more volunteers than ever before, yet, are reporting a decline in their volunteer base. The majority of volunteers tend to be retired individuals who are at high risk of becoming severely ill from the coronavirus and therefore are staying home(2). Funding sources that food banks typically rely on to stock their shelves have also been impacted by COVID-19. Corporate donors such as grocery stores are now only donating ¼ the amount of food that they once were(2).
To make matters worse, the USDA will not be able to provide food banks with the amount of food that they once could due to COVID-related funding sources ending. It is projected that in 2021, food banks will lose an average of 50% of the food they normally receive from the USDA(4). The reality of this loss is huge. 930 million meals are at risk in the U.S. and 2.2 million in Idaho alone.
Food banks have stepped up in communities all across the country to help those impacted by the pandemic and they need all the support they can get in order to continue their services despite the challenges that this unprecedented time has created. The best way for you to support your local food banks is to donate your time or money.