It doesn’t matter where you live — from suburbia to urban to rural — not knowing when your next meal is coming from (or even having food) is real to tens of millions of people every year in the U.S. And people needing assistance with food has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the majority of everyday life for most everyone.
Nationally, Feeding America has predicted more than 54 million people (or one in every six) in the U.S. will face food insecurity in 2020 due to COVID-19 — an increase of 17 million people from the 37 million deemed food insecure prior to the pandemic.
On a more local level, Feeding America predicts that people facing food insecurity will increase by at least five percent in Missouri and between five to seven percent in Illinois.
From that cul-de-sac to the high rise to even that country lane or sprawling farm — you — or your neighbors are, most likely, less secure and less stable in your everyday life than you were just a few months ago — especially those whose lives were already treading on a slippery slope.
What Our Partners Say About the Increase
By the end of May, Francis Howell School District in St. Charles increased its monthly Mobile Market (originally offered to families within the school district who needed extra help) to a weekly occurrence for anyone. Plans are to keep it weekly at least through August.
“We used to see an average of 60 families each month,” said Karin Mann, district chef with Francis Howell School District and food service manager with Sodexo, in late May. “We immediately saw an increase to between 100-200 families each week” after COVID-19 hit. When we touched base with Karin in late July, she told us the number of families coming through has increased to 300-400 per week.
At first, Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in Creve Coeur didn’t see much of an increase in need when things came screeching to a halt in mid-March. But after schools closed, the numbers started increasing.
“The number of new families visiting our food pantry leapt from four new families each day to 11 to 17 to 30,” said Miriam Seidenfeld, chief executive officer of Jewish Family Services. “At the end of the next week, the number of new families had climbed up to 50 and then 70 new families in one day.”
She continued to say, “In April 2019, we saw our typical 6,000-plus pantry visitors. This April we saw nearly 8,000 people – returning and new guests combined. The number of new guests who had never been to our pantry increased more than 800 percent between the end of March and the beginning of May.”
For the past three years, the Foodbank’s Mobile Market in the rural community of Hardin, Il served 75-80 families each month. Since April, that number has more than doubled to 170-plus families each month.
Likewise, the Jersey Township Food Pantry in Jerseyville, Il has also seen the number of people who are coming in for food increase. Since the start of the pandemic, the number has doubled and in late May, pantry coordinator Sarah Collins predicted that things will continue to get worse after stimulus checks are spent and utilities/rents need to be paid again.
Mission: St. Louis sees large numbers each time they hold a Mobile Market in north St. Louis City. Mandy Purcell, director of communications, shared that people from more than 50 ZIP codes have come to each of the markets they’ve held since April (which is at six as of this writing).
Brenda Crisp, executive director at Uni-Pres Kindercottage said that nearly 1,100 children were recently helped at just one of their now weekly Mobile Markets in East St. Louis. The childcare center started working with the Foodbank about three years ago serving approximately 70 families each month. Since COVID-19 that has increased to 200-400 families weekly.
House of Hope in Sullivan, MO is seeing more new faces than ever before. Carl Duff, pastor and president, said many have lost jobs due to the pandemic. One person, in tears, said, “if you weren’t helping us we wouldn’t be able to eat.”
Fighting Hunger Feeding Hope
Food insecurity is real and the need continues to grow. Everyone deserves access to food and at the Foodbank, our vision is that no one in our bi-state region goes to bed hungry.
To help alleviate hunger in our region, click here.