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 are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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