Apr 19, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus leads to huge surge in demand at U.S. food pantries

Volunteers distribute food from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Volunteers distribute food from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida on April 17. Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Food pantries around the United States are struggling to meet increased demand as millions of people suffer from the pandemic's economic toll, AP reports.

Why it matters: The more than 22 million Americans out of work as a result of the coronavirus has led to skyrocketing demand for donated food, but many of the food banks’ sources are drying up.

  • Some food bank leaders believe the money that Congress included for emergency food assistance in its March relief bill will take months to reach cities.

The big picture: Feeding America, a nationwide association of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries, has witnessed a 98% surge in demand.

  • San Francisco-Marin Food Bank in California built “pop-up” pantries after some of its previous 275 locations stopped operating during the crisis. A spokesperson told AP that the new sites are serving hundreds of people every day.
  • A spokesperson for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma said that the bank, which acts as a food distribution center for hundreds of member pantries, moved to a six-day workweek this month and may consider seven days a week to meet demand.

What they're saying: “It is a perfect storm scenario,” Katie Fitzgerald, chief operating officer for Feeding America, told AP.

  • “The food’s coming in the back door, and it’s going right out the front to the customers,” said Courtney Vrablik, executive director of The Store, a Nashville supermarket that provides free food to those in need.

Go deeper: Coronavirus supply chain issues cause tons of wasted food

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