COVID-19

Older volunteers are a key part of the food bank economy

Alli Fam Jul 23, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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SDI productions
COVID-19

Older volunteers are a key part of the food bank economy

Alli Fam Jul 23, 2020
SDI productions
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The demand for services provided by food banks across the country has risen in this pandemic. For many food banks, older volunteers play a key role. When Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke to Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of the hunger-relief charity Feeding America, in April, she told Ryssdal that “the majority of our 2 million volunteers in normal times are over 70 years old.”

She explained that she would never want a volunteer to risk their own health during the pandemic to come in, but the loss of many older volunteers was causing “an additional headwind for us.”

Joyce Idema is an 86-year-old retired resident of Sante Fe, New Mexico, who began volunteering for her local Food Bank, the Food Depot, during the pandemic. Idema said she was motivated to do so after reading in her local newspaper that “the demand for food in Sante Fe was so enormous that they couldn’t keep up with the preparation and distribution of food.”

She decided that since she was “in perfect health,” this “was something good” she could do. In the month of April, the Food Depot distributed over 1 million pounds of food to people in Northern New Mexico, which is more than double its normal monthly distribution. Idema has been volunteering several days a week and plans to keep coming back. She feels very safe at the Food Bank, as volunteers are able to social distance, wear masks and gloves, and work stations are routinely sanitized.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. Let us know how your economy is doing using the form below, and your story may be featured on a future edition of “My Economy.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

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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