Jobless claims in the United States have reached 6.6 million a number that has never been seen before. Previously, the highest week for applications was 695,000 in 1982. Further, during The Great Recession, jobless claims reached 665,000 in March of 2009. In addition to the unrealistic amount of job loss, food banks across the nation are seeing an unprecedented amount of persons, with some areas reporting an eight-fold increase. America is facing a hunger crisis.
Sheila Christopher, director of Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, which represents 18 food banks across 67 counties, said, “I’ve been in this business over 30 years, and nothing compares to what we’re seeing now. Not even when the steel mills closed down did we see increased demand like this.”
According to the Guardian, who complied the research;
- In Amherst, home to the University of Massachusetts’ largest campus, the pantry distributed 849% more food in March 2020 compared with the previous year. The second-largest increase in western Massachusetts was 748% at the Pittsfield Salvation Army pantry.
- The Grace Klein community food pantry in Jefferson county, which has the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama, provided 5,076 individuals with food boxes last week – a 90% increase on the previous week.
- In southern Arizona, demand has doubled, with pantries supplying groceries to 4,000 households every day – double the number provided in March 2019. “We saw an increase during the federal government shutdown but nothing as rapid, massive or overwhelming as this,” said Michael McDonald, CEO of the Community Food Bank of South Arizona.
- A helpline set up by the Greater Pittsburgh community food bank has received more than a thousand calls in the past two weeks, 90% of which came from newly unemployed people. Here, pantries ordered 50% to 60% more food for March and April than usual.
- The Lakeview Pantry in Chicago is on track to provide food for as many as 2,000 individuals this week – compared with 1,100 before the coronavirus crisis.
- The north Florida food bank, which relied heavily on contributions from retailers, has seen donations drop by 85% to 90% as shoppers bulk-buy, leaving shelves empty. But donations from restaurants, golf tournaments, and even Disney World have increased, so the food bank is switching to ready meals, paying furloughed chefs to cook for thousands of senior citizens in housing facilities.
- In Las Vegas, the Three Square food bank has increased weekly food distribution by 30%, from 1m to 1.3m lbs of food. New drive-thru distribution centers have been set up across the valley as 170 of its 180 distribution outlets have been forced to close due to CDC social distancing guidelines temporarily. “Every line at every distribution center exceeds the amount of food in our trucks,” said president Larry Scott.
- The Kansas City-based Harvesters food bank, which serves 16 counties in northeast Kansas and 10 in north-west Missouri, sent out 12,000 boxes to pantries on Monday 23 March – a 140% rise on the 5,000 boxes typically ordered. “It was the largest distribution day in our 40-year history,” said its communications manager, Gene Hallinan.
Spokesperson Jerry Brown for the oldest known foodbank in the world, St. Mary’s, which supplies seven hundred pantries, shelters, churches, and social service centers in seven counties said; “First we saw people who lived paycheck to paycheck, got laid off and didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, followed by those who had a couple of weeks of savings. Now, people who knew about us because they donated or volunteered are coming in for food… The 2008 recession doesn’t touch this. It’s a different ballgame.”
The Coronavirus outbreak is ramping up in the United States, and while many local governments are preparing to deal with ‘peak,’ many families do not know where to find their next meal. Week-over-week the number of persons without a job has doubled to 6.6 million, a number never seen before. Further, according to Kellie O’Connell, the CEO of Lakeview Pantry in Chicago; “Philanthropy and not-for-profits are not going to be able to meet food demands. The government needs to step in.”