Food banks pressed for volunteers, donations
SALISBURY, Md. — As farms and food companies weather the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic, food banks across the region and nation are caught in a storm of plummeting food donations, skyrocking demand and fewer volunteers to help.
The Maryland Food Bank has seen a 90 percent decrease in donations, forcing purchasing by the food bank to rise 75 percent, according to Jennifer Small, director of regional programs on the Eastern Shore.
In the next 90 days, Small said the food bank is expecting to spend $12 million to meet demand that has doubled from this time last year with 40 percent new client visits.
“We’re seeing individuals that are now challenged by food insecurity because their business has closed or because they lost their jobs,” Small said. “Fundraising is extremely important right now.”
Small said as supermarkets shopping has increased, less food remains that would normally have been donated to food banks. Other challenges in the food supply chain has pushed back arrival of purchased food back several weeks, she added.
Food banks and their network of pantries across the nation are facing similar challenges, according to national nonprofit Feeding America.
When the group surveyed its affiliated food banks in mid-March, 92 percent said they were seeing increased need, while 64 percent said food donations had declined.
In a new report issued in April from the group, it found the number of food insecure children could escalate to 18 million because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The highest total ever reported by USDA in the 25 years that it has been measuring food insecurity was 17.2 million in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, Feeding America said.
An increase in the unemployment rate of 7.6-percent coupled with a 5-percent increase in child poverty rate would result in a 9.3-percent increase in the child food insecurity rate — bringing the total child food insecurity rate potentially to 24.5 percent.
In the wake of the pandemic, that would mean 1 in 4 children could face hunger in America this year.
“Whether the food insecurity rate rises to one in four or remains at one in seven, as it currently stands now, it is too many children facing hunger in our country,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “This report should mobilize everyone from our elected officials to the public at large to provide all the resources families need to get through this crisis.”
Feeding America established its COVID-19 Response Fund back in mid-March to support the network of 200 member food banks’ efforts across the country.
For more information, visit feedingamerica.org/covid19. Small said new state funding has also been committed to the Maryland Food Bank and Capital Area Food Bank to help them continue their mission.
In Delaware — even before there was a confirmed case of coronavirus in the state, the Food Bank of Delaware reported a fall in volunteers, predominantly elderly workforce, by 80 percent.
The Food Bank of Delaware organized three mass drive-thru distribution days in late March.
The day before the first event, Gov. John Carney announced the closure of restaurant dining rooms and bars, resulting in thousands unemployed overnight.
“We knew we would have a crowd, but did not expect traffic to stretch from the Chase Center on the Riverfront to the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd./Maryland Avenue ramp off I-95,” the food bank said on it’s website about its first mass distribution day in Wilmington, Del.
Over the course of three days, the food bank distributed 765,632 pounds of food to 5,000 households.
For the entire month of February, it distributed 1.1 million pounds of food.
Since its last mass distribution day, the Food Bank of Delaware shifted to holding smaller pop-up distributions working with local partners and schools to give out meal boxes and weekend meal bags to families.
In the face of massive challenges, the food banks said they are continuing there mission to serve their states food insecure population.
New sources of volunteers have emerged and businesses have stepped up where the can to help.
“If there’s a positive in all this, it’s the ingenuity of our partners and the community support in wanting to help us do more,” Small said.
Small said financial donations have the greatest impact. Each dollar donated buys three meals or about 3.5 pounds of food.
Food donations and volunteering also go a long way to help. She anticipated all three will be crucial long after state social distance restrictions are lifted.
“We also realize that post-COVID-19 there are going to be after effects,” she said.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925