Food Banks Will Feed People This Thanksgiving… But for How Much Longer?
Many Thanksgiving gatherings are likely to be different this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We may not be meeting in groups as large as in the past. Some older and other at-risk folks may decide to sit this one out at their own homes.
Even families deciding to gather for the holiday may take extra precautions. Including mask wearing and social distancing.
There’s a silver lining for many families. They hope this Thanksgiving will be the last affected by the virus. But for those who can’t afford a nice dinner or have no family near them, unfortunately this Thanksgiving will be business as usual.
Some of these people depend on food banks and pantries for their Thanksgiving meals. But this year, the coronavirus has taken its toll on many food banks.
More on that in a moment. First, let’s look at what Feeding America is doing to help hungry people.
Tens of millions in the U.S. face hunger. So, Feeding America partners with other organizations to provide for those needs and others.
Feeding America’s first priority is distributing food to children, seniors and families in need.
Food banks in this nonprofit organization’s network also offer:
- Community-specific programs that respond to the changing needs of the people they serve.
- Programs that help families manage the relationship between food and wellness.
- Programs that help families and households identify food-related ways to keep children healthy.
- Ways to help families and households create and follow a food budget. Or find government programs.
The 200-plus food banks in this network will do what they can this Thanksgiving. They’ll try to make sure hungry people have a good meal. As will many other food banks across the country.
But as mentioned, the virus has dwindled their food supplies. “Food charities are coping with shortages of some consumer goods… and soaring demand as they reset logistics for the Covid-19 pandemic era.” So says the Wall Street Journal.
The virus has led to unemployment and the collapse of many small businesses. This has resulted in millions of Americans going hungry for the first time. Just in time for the holidays.
Back in March, 18 million Americans reported they did not have enough to eat. Now that number is up to 22.3 million. That’s according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
Food deficits looming
America’s food issue was actually improving slightly in 2019. But when COVID-19 hit, the need became too great.
Food banks and pantries may be able to keep hungry people fed this Thanksgiving. But the future looks grim. Feeding America’s network currently feeds 46 million people. Within the next 12 months it could experience a massive food shortage.
Organization officials fear a deficit of more than 10 billion pounds of food between now and June 2021. That’s about 8 billion meals.
The network’s previous annual distribution of food was approximately 5 billion pounds. But the estimated need over the next year is about 17 billion pounds.
Need grows, volunteers shrink
The single biggest food problem now is that more people need assistance than ever before.
But a close second is that many people and business that previously donated to food banks are now unable to do so. Some not at all, while others can’t donate as much as they used to.
Yet another issue is that the number of food bank volunteers has dwindled. Some volunteers are concerned about exposure to the virus at a food bank. Especially older ones.
As if all that weren’t enough, food prices keep rising. Nonprofit groups can’t buy as much of increasingly expensive food as they used to.
Rising prices another culprit
Prices are also rising for other items food banks depend on. Including electricity, cleaning materials and boxes. Even food transportation costs are going up.
The food stamp program (SNAP) has also experienced shortfalls. That has caused more people than ever before to seek out food banks.
And while this is going on, untold millions of tons of food are being wasted. Due to some Americans allowing food to expire before preparing it. Or preparing too much and not consuming leftovers.
Ellen Vollinger is legal director at the Washington-based Food Research and Action Center. She said, “It’s not surprising to see so many ‘new needy’ when even before the pandemic millions of working Americans were living on the edge of poverty.”
Getting – and giving – help
Those needing food this Thanksgiving should contact local food banks. Or pantries or soup kitchens.
Other options are local churches, faith-based groups and the Salvation Army. Some churches conduct food giveaways prior to holidays such as Thanksgiving.
Those who are disabled or seniors can register for Thanksgiving assistance from Meals on Wheels.
And those who have been blessed with more than enough should look for ways to provide for those in need. There’s no greater feeling than feeding the hungry.