CLEVELAND — Through the pandemic, local food banks continue to work to fill the gaps and provide assistance to families in need.
While they are meeting the need, there is uncertainty about what’s to come and that in itself could present new challenges.
“What we’ve noticed is that once that extra $600 unemployment ran out at the end of July our numbers at those Thursday afternoon distributions started to increase again,” explains Greater Cleveland Food Bank Vice President of Agency Programs and Service, Jessica Morgan.
The peak happened in April with 3,600 households driving through for food distribution in a three hour time period. Morgan says that number was down to around 1,500-1,700 households but increased to 2,300 when the added benefit ran out.
They’re keeping a close eye on the situation to make sure they have enough food at the sites so no one is turned away.
The organization is looking to partner with more schools to provide fresh produce to children and families.
“I’ve been at the food bank 8 ½ years and this is the most interesting time that I’ve ever been apart of,” she says.
The Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank is in need of more non-profit partners to distribute food in neighborhoods.
“Since COVID-19 there’s been a number of these charitable partners that have closed down altogether, that are temporarily suspended because their volunteers are concerned about contact with the public and all of this is added up to more challenges for us getting food out to the community,” explains CEO Dan Flowers.
“We need more churches and community organizations and charities to come forth and join the food bank and be apart of our regular work.”
Flowers says 27 percent of the families served between March and July have been new. In the same time period during 2019, 17 percent of families were new.
“One in four people in a line for emergency food today has never been in that line before and so that is the new poverty,” he says.
Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio has stepped up its distribution efforts after losing about twenty-percent of its partner charities during the pandemic.
“We’re still somewhat surprised about the demand and the need, so we’ll just have to see, we’re monitoring it every single week,” explains Director of External Affairs, Susan Bartosch.
She says they’re a planning organization but it’s hard to do so when they don’t know what the next month will be like.
“Of course we don’t snap our fingers and the food comes out of the air, or that the money comes, or the volunteers come, so we’ve really got to stay on top of our game in terms of making sure we can get enough food, enough help, enough volunteers, all that.”
Volunteers are starting to come back and the Ohio National Guard is assisting food banks.