GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thanksgiving is often about big, warm meals, but this year more than ever, some families are struggling to fill their fridge.
Organizations focused on combatting food insecurity are seeing their numbers skyrocket.
“In our 38-year history, we’ve never seen anything like this,” South Michigan Food Bank CEO Peter Vogel told News 8. “We broke the single-year record last month. We are on pace to do somewhere between 14 and 15 million pounds of food and our old record was about 11.5 million.”
For added context, Vogel shared their campus pantry served about 80 families a week prior to COVID-19. That figure has averaged about 500 families a week lately.
“In fact, we actually set a record this Tuesday. We had 622 families come through,” Vogel said.
In June, researchers at Northwestern University estimated food insecurity rates more than doubled during the pandemic, now impacting as many as 23% of households across the country.
Feeding America West Michigan is experiencing a similar statistic related to area operations.
“Our distribution output has been 21.5% higher this year than it would’ve been at this time last year,” Juliana Ludema, a communication specialist for Feeding America West Michigan told News 8. “A lot of people who have never before had to experience hunger are now finding (themselves) coming to food pantries and just seeking that food assistance.”
The Hunger Blog shared by Feeding America said food banks nationwide distributed an estimated 4.2 billion meals from the beginning of March through the end of October.
Currently, federal, state and private aid is helping offset the urgent need created by the pandemic, but those tasked with assisting families fear their own support will run out before the demand decreases.
“I don’t want to leave people high and dry,” Vogel explained. “I don’t want to be the guy who says, ‘You’re ordering for 500 families coming through and I don’t have enough food to give you all of that.’ That’s not where we ever want to be.”
The estimated outlook for how long this need may last is grim.
“We anticipate numbers being high for at least two more years, which is pretty substantial. Maybe not the level that they’re at right now but increased over what normal was pre-COVID probably for another two years,” the CEO said.
Ways you can support South Michigan Food Bank can be found on its website.
You can also support Feeding American by visiting its website.