Across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving an increase in demand for food. Feeding America estimates that one in six Americans could face hunger due to the pandemic.
More than ever, people are turning to food banks. According to the Global FoodBanking Network, 100 percent of food banks in their network across 40 countries witnessed an increased demand for food since the start of the pandemic. In the U.S., food banks are doubling or tripling their weekly spending to serve the endless lines of people, many of whom are first-time food bank users.
In Alameda County, California, Alameda County Community Food Bank set up two outdoor, direct distribution sites to meet the increased need for food. The drive-thru site in Oakland takes everyone, no questions asked, and feeds around 1,400 families per day, site-coordinator Megan McClintock tells Food Tank. Since the holiday season started, the site has seen an increase of about 100 to 200 cars per day.
Many food banks are struggling to meet the surging demand. They are facing shortages in food supply, donations, and volunteers. And while many food banks expect extra help around the holidays, they anticipate a drop in volunteers and donations in the first months of 2021.
Food banks can always use volunteers. Feeding America reports that two-thirds of their food banks are still recruiting volunteers to help pack and deliver meal kits and transport food to pantries. Some food banks also offer virtual volunteer opportunities to write thank you notes to donors, make calls, or help with data entry.
Some food banks are still taking food donations, but in light of COVID-19, they may have placed restrictions on the type of food they can accept. Food banks recommend that people interested in donating food check with their local food bank.
Instead of food donations, many food banks are asking community members to consider hosting a virtual food drive for donations. Virtual food drives on social platforms like Facebook will raise money so food banks can buy the food they need. People can also donate directly to their local food bank.
People can also support food banks by volunteering and donating to their partner food pantries and soup kitchens, writing letters to policymakers about the importance of hunger-relief programs (Feeding America has a pre-written email to Congress), and spreading awareness.
Below are ways to support food banks during the holiday season and in the new year. Food Tank is highlighting just a handful of food banks across the nation serving their communities to consider supporting this holiday season. Find local food banks across the U.S. here.
1. Alameda County Community Food Bank – Oakland, CA
The Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) has served the Bay Area region for more than 30 years, directing thousands of pounds of food per day to those in need. Their hunger-relief efforts include food distribution programs, research and policy advocacy, food recovery, nutrition and health education, school programs, CalFresh outreach, and census support.
2. Capital Area Food Bank – Washington, D.C.
Capital Area Food Bank partners with over 450 nonprofits to provide more than 45 million meals per year. They also have initiatives in nutrition and wellness education, farms and gardening, and food access.
3. Central Texas Food Bank – Austin, TX
Central Texas Food Bank serves 21 counties in central Texas. With the help of partner agencies, they serve around 200,000 individuals per month and have culinary and garden education programs.
4. Dare to Care Food Bank – Louisville, KY
Serving 13 counties in Kentucky and Indiana, Dare to Care Food Bank has 300 social service agencies they partner with. They also have a mobile pantry, cooking, and backpack, and school programs.
5. Feeding Alabama – Birmingham, AL
Feeding Alabama supplies millions of meals per year to over 250 food pantries, shelters, and children’s programs in 12 counties in Central Alabama. Their programs focus on children, seniors, food delivery, food recovery, and disaster response.
6. Food Bank for NYC – New York City, NY
Food Bank for NYC is New York City’s largest hunger-relief organization and has been serving the five boroughs for over 36 years. Their website includes a map to find soup kitchens and food pantries, senior centers, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment sites, and free tax assistance sites.
7. Greater Chicago Food Depository – Chicago, IL
The Greater Chicago Food Depository boasts a network of over 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Their programs address the root causes of hunger and specific needs of diverse groups, including children, older adults, and veterans. They also have public benefits outreach and job training.
8. LA Regional Food Bank – Los Angeles, CA
During the pandemic, the LA Regional Food Bank went from serving approximately 300,000 to 900,000 people each month. With one in five people in Los Angeles facing food insecurity, this food bank is making sure children, seniors, and low-income families are getting the resources they need.
9. Northwest Harvest – Seattle, WA
As Washington’s leading hunger-relief agency, Northwest Harvest has a statewide network of 375 food banks, meal programs, and high-need schools. Their programs provide two million meals per month on average.
10. Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin – Madison, WI
This Wisconsin food bank serves 16 counties and rescues over 7 million pounds of food per year. In addition to their mobile pantry and school programs, they also provide health management classes for people with diabetes and work with pediatric and family care physicians.
11. St. Louis Area Food Bank – St. Louis, Missouri
As a member of Feeding America, St. Louis Area Food Bank serves 14 counties in eastern Missouri and 12 counties in southwestern Illinois. They serve over 392,000 per year and have over 500 partner organizations.
Photo courtesy of Joel Muniz on Upsplash
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