From California to New York, Minneapolis to Miami. Young or old. Working or unemployed. Healthy or sick. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that anyone, at any time, in any circumstance, could need a little extra help keeping food on the table. Not unlike many Americans, many of the 40 million people who visit a Feeding America food bank live paycheck-to-paycheck and are one bad break away from being in a tough spot.
Meet a few of your neighbors who were brave enough to share their stories of how the coronavirus pandemic has changed their lives.
Bailey and her husband, who just bought a house before the pandemic…
Bailey’s family might be a lot like yours. They bought a new home. Their 7-year-old son was in a good school and Bailey was on track to graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Bailey and her husband were feeling like their life was going well – until the coronavirus hit. Within a couple of weeks, everything changed.
The company where her husband worked for the past three years laid off about a third of their workforce. Bailey’s part-time job as a gymnastics instructor ended. Her son’s school closed, perhaps for the rest of the school year.
“We haven’t even made our first house payment yet, and all this happened,” she said.
Because of their situation, Bailey visited a recent COVID-19 food distribution in Missouri, hosted by the Southeast Missouri Food Bank.
“I pulled up, and maybe 10 minutes later we were through the line and ready to go back home. Everything they put in the box were things that we would eat.”
Especially the box of Paw Patrol gummy snacks. The Paw Patrol cartoon is her son’s favorite.
“He said, “Mom, they must have known I was coming,’” Bailey said. “The one thing you hate as a parent is going into a store and telling your kids, ‘No you can’t have that because we don’t have the money.’ I’m so glad they had those because then he felt like he got something too.”
A freelance reporter who covered a food distribution…and then needed to attend it…
Less than a month ago, Lewis was covering a COVID-19 food distribution in Illinois as a freelance journalist. Now, he’s attending one because he and his family need the food.
“I’m here for my wife and brother. Between the three of us, we lost a total of five jobs because of the virus. We never expected this to happen.”
Lewis and wife were semi-retired, both working part-time jobs before the pandemic. But in the blink of an eye, that changed.
“We don’t /have any income at all,” Lewis said.
Recently, he attended an Eastern Illinois Food Bank drive-thru food distribution.
“It makes the little bit of money we do have coming in go a lot farther,” he said. “In the past, we were the ones donating to the food bank because we had good jobs, a good income. We were secure. Within a month, we were needing the food bank. It can happen to anybody.”
A farm worker trying to support his family…
Edgar had worked on a pig farm before the pandemic. He tended to the animals and helped with daily chores. When COVID began, Edgar was laid off. Now, he is out of work and needs help. He’s been looking for another position, but because of the pandemic, there are very few available jobs.
“I tried to find another job, but now it’s very hard you know,” Edgar said.
Edgar visits a mobile food pantry near his home. In addition to receiving food, Edgar and his wife also volunteer to help at the pantry.
“We have to just keep calm and help when we can do that,” he said. “You see too many cars coming for food and drink. I think it’s a very good help for the people. The people need it.”
Right now, he is unsure of when he will be able to return to work.
“I don’t know. Maybe a month or two months. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” he said.
He sees firsthand the important role the pantries play in helping unemployed families and is grateful for the assistance.
“Just want to say thank you for your help,” he said. “These kinds of events help too many people, so God bless you.”
From the beginning of March through May, Feeding America and its network of food banks distributed 1.3 billion meals to people like Edgar, Lewis, Bailey and her family. Inspired by their stories? Want to make a difference in the lives of your neighbors struggling with hunger during the pandemic? Donate to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, where 100 percent of donations are going to support food banks across the country.