COVID-19

Coronavirus-linked hardship puts pressure on food banks

Nova Safo Apr 9, 2020
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Volunteers pack boxes of food at the distribution center of the Capital Area Food Bank on April 9 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID-19

Coronavirus-linked hardship puts pressure on food banks

Nova Safo Apr 9, 2020
Volunteers pack boxes of food at the distribution center of the Capital Area Food Bank on April 9 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The nation’s food banks and pantries are stepping in to help the millions of people out of a job and unable to make ends meet. You’ve probably seen the images from around the country of long lines of cars waiting for donated food.

That kind of demand is putting pressure on food banks’ resources, and some are worried about how long they can keep up at the current pace.

Food banks are sort of like Amazon distribution centers for charitable pantries, which then give out that food to people in need. And right now, there’s a lot of need out there. 

“This spike in the demand for food assistance is unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” said Michael Flood. He runs the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which he said expects to distribute 2 million meals just this week. Demand is up 50%. 

At the same time, many traditional sources of donated food have dried up: Restaurants are closed, grocery stores are overwhelmed. 

“At this rate of food distribution, we’re at somewhere between three to four weeks of inventory that we can continue to rely on,” Flood said.

His counterpart in New York has a similar projection. In a few weeks, Dan Egan’s charity Feeding New York State projects it will be buying a lot of the food it needs.

“We’re doing OK right now. We’re all worried,” Egan said. “[In a] few weeks out, what’s going to happen? We don’t have endless resources.”

There is some good news. Food banks aren’t the only source of help. Congress just allocated more than $15 billion to pay for all the expected new applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — what used to be called food stamps — as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. 

“The charitable food system occupies a bigger place in the national imagination, but the federal food assistance programs provide the lion’s share of assistance,” said Janet Poppendieck, a senior faculty fellow at the Urban Food Policy Institute at the City University of New York.

The problem, she explained, is that SNAP usually doesn’t provide enough money for a whole month of food. There’s now a push to get Congress to increase the amount of aid. 

Another problem is that most SNAP recipients can’t order food online, meaning they can’t use the aid for deliveries, which would help them maintain social distancing. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s been weeks since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that was supposed to get the federal government back into the business of topping up unemployment benefits, to $400 a week. Few states, however, are currently paying even part of the benefit that the president promised. And, it looks like, in most states, the maximum additional benefit unemployment recipients will be able to get is $300.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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