Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, they provide meals to more than 40 million people each year. During the first months of the pandemic, roughly 4 in 10 people visiting food banks were seeking help for the first time.
Food banks have adapted to this new level of need with most food banks serving over 55% more people than before the pandemic began. With the help of donations and volunteers, the Feeding America network provided nearly 6 billion meals to throughout the US from March 2020 to January 2021. Member food banks received more than $326 million in emergency funding for their COVID response efforts.
Many people of all walks of life have helped make this all possible whether it was money or their time they donated. Tiller & Hatch co-founders Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley pledged a donation of 1 million meals in partnership with Feeding America. The brand made stops in 15 cities to give out frozen, chef-crafted Tiller & Hatch meals to local communities nationwide.
Impossible Foods teamed up with Colin Kaepernick and Know Your Rights Camp to distribute more than 1 million meals in 2020. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Disney Springs Chef José Andrés teamed up with Coca-Cola to donate $1 million to José’s World Central Kitchen to distribute 100,000 meals. The initiative also helped 150 local restaurants in communities hit hardest by COVID-19 by enabling them to rehire up to 1,400 employees.
Kanye West and Chick-fil-A both sponsored the Dream Center in Los Angeles, helping them to provide 300,000 meals to people in the area, including meal delivery to high-risk seniors in the community. Tan France donated to Frontline Foods, an organization that’s still supporting local restaurants and frontline workers by delivering meals to hospitals. Frontline Foods is feeding healthcare providers and has helped local restaurants in 38 cities stay afloat.
Over a year into the pandemic, 42 million people, including 13 million children, may still be at risk of hunger. Food banks are now accustomed to the increased number of people they are serving and Feeding America’s network of food banks are on pace to distribute 6.5 billion meals in 2021. But none of this would have been possible without donations and volunteers stepping up to get food into the hands of those at risk.
The pandemic reversed the last decade’s progress towards ending hunger in the United States. Sixty-five percent of network food banks working with Feeding America are accepting and still in need of volunteers. Unfortunately, many people continue to face unemployment and families still struggle to pay bills like housing, utilities, and medical care. Many people who had never volunteered before did so for the first time during the pandemic. The generosity many have shown and determination of everyday people to create solutions to the social distancing obstacles through the pandemic has kept millions of families going and the need is still there.