Feeding America Short $1.4 Billion from COVID-19 Pandemic

Panic buying due to COVID-19 concerns led to empty shelves in the meat department at Target in Olathe, Kan., on March 19, 2020. ( Katie James )

The nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization will be short $1.4 billion in resources over the next six months. Feeding America estimates COVID-19 related issues have led to a 30% increase to the baseline six-month operating cost for its 200 member foodbanks in the U.S.

“The people we serve and the charitable food system in the United States are facing a ‘perfect storm,’ with surges in demand, declines in food donations and volunteers, and disruptions to normal operating procedures as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America in a recent news release. “It is all of our neighbors who now, more than even, need help putting food on their tables.”

Closed schools, rapidly rising unemployment (it hit an all-time high enrollment this week) and rising poverty due to stay-at-home orders and quarantine will have a greater impact on those already at risk of food insecurity. Feeding America research indicated an additional 17.1 million people will experience food insecurity—a 46% jump.

Making matters worse, fewer people are donating food. Early predictions show a 60% decline in the Feeding America workforce who typically package and deliver food. Many of these volunteers are senior citizens, school groups and corporate groups.

Feeding America surveyed 99% of their food bank network to assemble these predictions.

“We are distributing an additional 250,000 pounds of food per week to support five local urban and suburban school districts that are closed,” said Heather Schlesinger of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “We’ve stopped using volunteers inside our building—we typically use close to 600 per week. We have spent more than $500,000 in the last seven days on food versus a typical week of less than $50,000.”

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