COVID-19

Local food banks see increased need with federal assistance program set to end

Samantha Fields Oct 23, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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City of Opa-locka employees and volunteers place groceries provided by the food bank Feeding South Florida into the vehicles of patrons at a drive-thru distribution site on April 14, 2020 in Opa-locka, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

Local food banks see increased need with federal assistance program set to end

Samantha Fields Oct 23, 2020
City of Opa-locka employees and volunteers place groceries provided by the food bank Feeding South Florida into the vehicles of patrons at a drive-thru distribution site on April 14, 2020 in Opa-locka, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Update (Oct. 23, 2020): The USDA announced on Friday that it is extending the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which delivers food to food banks like Feeding South Florida under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, through December. It was originally set to end on Oct. 31.

The most recent data from the Census Bureau’s weekly household survey found that, for the week ending Oct. 12, more than 22 million people reported that they had sometimes or often not had enough to eat in the last seven days. And food banks are seeing more and more people who need help.

Paco Vélez oversees a food bank that serves four counties as the CEO of Feeding South Florida. He said when the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, “all of a sudden, overnight, we saw a 30% jump in our distributions.”

Across the country, demand at food banks is up 60% over this time last year, and has been for months, said Kate Leone of Feeding America.

“At the same time, we’re looking at less food coming in through federal programs through the food bank system,” Leone said.

One of those, under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, initially provided 160 truckloads a week of food to Feeding South Florida, Vélez said. Now, that’s down to 60 truck loads, and the program is set to end this month. And, he’s concerned, because already “we don’t have enough food to get it to those families,” Vélez said

And, he said Feeding South Florida is having to go out and ask for more donations to purchase food.

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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