The first months of the food bank response to COVID, by the numbers

Food bank volunteer carrying boxes
May 15, 2020
by Paul Morello

You have probably read a lot about the size and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic. And with the entire country – and all 200 Feeding America food banks – impacted by the crisis, sometimes numbers tell the best story. But numbers can be hard to really comprehend. So, we’re breaking down the stats for you.

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1. From the beginning of March through early May, food banks nationwide distributed more than 947 million meals to people facing hunger in the United States. In March alone, food banks gave out 20 percent more food than an average month. 

Well, that’s a lot of meals! 947 million meals are enough to provide every single resident of California (that’s more than 39 million residents in 2019) with breakfast, lunch and dinner for more than eight days. Basically, it’s a big increase in the amount of people visiting food banks. 

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2. If people continue to visit food banks at this rate, we will provide an incredible five billion meals this year. It takes an out-of-this-world level of support from generous neighbors across the country to sustain that level of response during the pandemic. So, it’s appropriate to compare that number to something not on this world: the moon. If meals were miles (work with us, here), five billion meals would get you to the moon and back a whopping 20,000 times. 

 

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3. As a result of the pandemic, Feeding America estimates 1 in 6 Americans could face hunger.

As simple as that stat is, it’s also one of the most stunning. Because of COVID, more people than ever before are visiting food banks and many of them are getting help for the first time. Our neighbors who previously had stable incomes have now lost jobs or had their hours cut back. And food banks are stepping up, as they always have, to put food on the table for those who need it during this uncertain time. 

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4. Two-thirds of Feeding America food banks across the country are accepting volunteers.  

Many food banks need your help and have volunteer opportunities available right now! Before the pandemic, food banks relied on the generous time of nearly 2 million volunteers per month. Since COVID-19, volunteer numbers are down, but the need is even higher, as many regular volunteers are in the higher-risk category and are staying home. And there are many ways to help food banks right now, including in person and at home.