American families that have been struck by the COVID-19 pandemic now depend on food banks for survival, waiting for donations to drop in lines of cars stretching as far as the eye can see.
Considering that about 22 million people have been kicked out of their jobs with the pandemic period, so many businesses closes under the terrifying Lockdown, these charities that are busy with feeding hungry and vulnerable people fear a day will come when they may not be able to cope with the tsunami of demand.
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Tuesday saw some 1,000 cars queued up at a distribution center that has been set up in Pennsylvania by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The demand for its bags of food increased to nearly 40 percent in March.
At eight centers like that one, about 227 tonnes of food were placed in the trunks of cars of families suddenly unable to put meals on the table, said the organization’s vice president Brian Gulish.
“A lot of people are utilizing our service for the first time. They’ve never turned to a food bank before,” said Gulish. So they do not know there is a network of 350 distribution points in southwest Pennsylvania.
“That’s why those lines are so long. Because they don’t know that network that we have,” Gulish added.
All over America, from New Orleans to Detroit, people abruptly stripped of a paycheck are flocking to food banks — sad scenes of desperation among people waiting for their small share of stimulus money included in the $2.2 trillion emergency relief package approved by Congress last month.
Perhaps the most dramatic picture of some Americans’ new food insecurity unfolded April 9 in San Antonio, Texas, where a staggering 10,000 cars showed up at one food bank, with some families arriving the night before to just sit and wait.
“We have gone for months without work,” a woman who gave her name only as Alana said at a food distribution center in Chelsea in suburban Boston.
“I find a lady yesterday with a 15-day-old baby, a newborn. The husband is not working, she has two more kids. She was having no food in her house,” said Alana.
Everywhere, food bank officials say their needs in the pandemic era have skyrocketed all of a sudden — by 30 percent, for example, at a network in Akron, Ohio.
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“We built a supply chain over the years that would serve a certain anticipated need for food. Ramping that up 30 percent overnight is nearly impossible,” said Dan Flowers, CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
In part, this is because the food banks are caught up in the maelstrom that has hit the US food industry.
With restaurants closed because of the lockdown, Americans are stocking up on everything in grocery stores, which no longer can make as many product donations as they usually do. Ditto for restaurants that often donate surplus food to homeless shelters. Fortunately, the US food industry is in fact making donations.