Food banks facing $1.4 billion shortage due to rising demand, declining funds

Food banks facing $1.4 billion shortage due to rising demand, declining funds
Posted at 7:32 PM, Apr 02, 2020

Many children are no longer receiving school meals, millions of Americans are out of work, government checks are weeks away.

Feeding America, which is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, said on Thursday that food banks nationally are projected to encounter a $1.4 billion shortage over the next six months.

According to a Feeding America spokesperson, the organization is expecting food banks nationally to see a 30% increase in costs. That is largely because an estimated additional 17.1 million people will be experiencing food insecurity.

Adding insult to injury, food banks nationally are facing declines in donations and volunteer participation. Feeding America said it projects a 60% decline of their volunteer workforce who typically help package and deliver food, many of whom are retired senior citizens and school/corporate groups.

“The people we serve and the charitable food system in the United States are facing a ‘perfect storm,’ with surges in demand, declines in food donations and volunteers, and disruptions to normal operating procedures, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “It is all of our neighbors who now more than ever need help putting food on their tables.”

In Pittsburgh on Monday, overhead video footage showed a line at a drive thru food distribution that extended for over one mile. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank said that it will limit distributions to two boxes of food per family at its emergency food distributions.

The food bank is calling the demand "unprecedented."

"In total, through our warehouse, we distributed one million more pounds of food in March 2020 than we did in March 2019," Lisa Scales, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, said. "We have had a 543 percent increase of people coming to the Food Bank directly for food. At the current time, our inventory is still strong, but that may change over the coming weeks.

"We have spent $1.7M in the past two months on food purchases, compared to $376,000 in that same timeframe in 2019. This is why financial contributions are most critical at this time."

The Atlanta Community Food Bank said that its spending 10 times its normal rate on food purchasing. This is in addition to no longer having nearly an army of 600 volunteers to assist the organization.

Helping put a dent in the shortage, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent Feeding America a $100 million gift. The donation marks the largest single contribution in Feeding America's history. Bezos' gift comes as 10 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last two weeks.

To support efforts nationwide, people can make a donation to the Feeding America COVID-19 Response Fund by going to . To support their community or affected communities directly, they can use the Feeding America food bank locator here.

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook .