Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization with a network of 200 member food banks across the country, today announced the establishment of the COVID-19 Response Fund to help food banks across the country as they support communities impacted by the pandemic. The $2.65 million fund will enable food banks to secure the resources they need to serve the most vulnerable members of the community during this difficult time. Still, it is impossible for the Feeding America network to address this pandemic without public and government support, so that food banks can do what they do best — feed people in need within their communities.
While the media has reported greater at-risk factors for COVID-19 among the general population, such as age and pre-existing health conditions, many may not realize food-insecure households are likely more susceptible to the virus. This is believed to be due to lesser access to adequate health care, lower resistance or compromised immune systems, stigma or bias, or lack of information about proper prevention and care.
In addition, school closures, job disruptions, lack of paid sick leave, and the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on adults age 60 and older and low-income families further contribute to the demands placed on food banks. Lost wages or sudden expenses due to illness will be increasingly burdensome for the millions of people in America who live paycheck to paycheck, especially when, according to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to cover a $400 emergency expense.
In the face of these challenges, the Feeding America network of food banks is uniquely positioned to help people who need it most. Per the most recent USDA food security report, more than 37 million people, 11 million of whom are children, face hunger. As the largest provider of charitable food assistance in the U.S., including in disaster and emergency situations, Feeding America provides more than 4.2 billion meals to people facing hunger each year.
“Our first priority is the millions of individuals, families and seniors who rely on food banks for help,” said Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot. “Our member food banks are always there to help throughout the year and in times of disaster. This fund will advance their ability to respond efficiently and effectively in their communities so that food is not added to the list of worries for families during this pandemic.” Babineaux-Fontenot added, “We cannot do it alone.”
Using the COVID-19 Response Fund, Feeding America is launching national food- and fund-raising efforts to support people facing hunger and the food banks who help them. This includes building an inventory of emergency food boxes and distributing them to member food banks across the country, as well as working to get incremental funding to support other anticipated costs. Feeding America is also working with government leaders to ensure the emergency response includes strong supports in food, funds, and flexibility for federal nutrition programs.
Member food banks have started shifting operations, adding more mobile or “drive-thru” distributions wherever possible. In addition, food banks are working with partner food pantries and meal programs to minimize the risk of spreading the disease by scheduling appointments and suggesting that only one member of the household visit the pantry or distribution site in order to decrease the number of people congregating in one place.