Feeding America CEO expects to serve 17 million extra people
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Sudden job loss for millions of Americans has led to a rapid rise in food insecurity. “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity, about what COVID-19 means for her organization and the hundreds of food banks it works with.
When Ryssdal and Babineaux-Fontenot last spoke in December, Feeding America was serving about 40 million people a year.
“We’re expecting an increase because of COVID-19 of 17 million people over the next six months that we’ll have to serve,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “It’s really unprecedented.”
Despite an outpouring of support amid this crisis, Babineaux-Fontenot said Feeding America still doesn’t have all the resources it needs.
“We need funds, food and volunteers across our organization,” she said. “The vast majority of our 2 million volunteers in normal times are over 70 years old, so we would not want them to sacrifice their health and safety to do this work right now.”
Feeding America has changed how it delivers food to people to add physical distance between volunteers and people in need of food. Babineaux-Fontenot said if Feeding America doesn’t get more help, including federal assistance, the situation “could become truly critical.”
Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?
Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.
How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?
Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.
How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?
As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.
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