Nov 19, 2021 - Food and Drink
How D.C.'s Capital Area Food Bank is fighting food insecurity
A woman stands in the Capital Area Food Bank
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For 42 years, the Capital Area Food Bank has served food-insecure families in the D.C. region — and doing so during the holiday season in a pandemic is no small feat.

  • “There's still so many who are still very vulnerable, who are still suffering the effects of COVID,” Radha Muthiah, president and CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank, which partners with 450 nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area.

By the numbers: Last year the Capital Area Food Bank served 600,000 food-insecure individuals across the region and 76 million meals were distributed, a 50% increase from pre-pandemic numbers, according to Muthiah.

  • This year, the food bank projects it'll distribute 45 million meals by the end of its fiscal year, still a vast increase from 31 million annual meals pre-pandemic.
  • In June, Capital Area Food Bank unveiled its 2021 hunger report, showing that over 50% of newly insecure individuals were Latino, and households seeking food assistance for the first time were 60% more likely to include children than prior to the pandemic.

While most people were enjoying the beach this summer, the Capital Area Food Bank was focused on ordering cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkeys, Muthiah says.

  • Part of food procurement is ensuring that there's food to fit cultural needs, too, she adds.

“We have understood directly from clients, you know, what are the types of staples, what are the celebratory items, etc, that really meet their needs,” Muthiah says.

  • Most recently with Afghan refugees settling in our area, she adds, the Capital Area Food Bank has looked into appropriate ingredients with Afghan meals should they be called on to distribute to this population.

Yes, but: Inflation has proved a challenge, Muthiah says.

  • “The orders being placed today are at higher price points,” she says. Inflation doesn't just impact the food bank's budget, but also the budgets of clients and families in the region.
  • “The dollars they sent aside [for meals] are not going as far as they could,” Muthiah says. “If they can't afford a few more meals they're going to turn to the food bank for additional meals.”

How you can help: Volunteer support is always appreciated at the Capital Area Food Bank, particularly during the holidays when meal orders have increased.

  • Volunteers can sign up to help pack food boxes, sort donations, and otherwise support the food bank.
  • For those who can't volunteer their time, Muthiah says financial donations are also appreciated.
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