COVID-19 has had a big impact on just about every part of our lives. At the Regional Food Bank, the virus has not only increased expenses but also the need.
At the Regional Food Bank warehouse, they are still packing up backpacks for hungry kids, but because of COVID safety concerns, the tens of thousands of volunteers that usually help them out aren't here. The food bank has had to hire workers.
“It certainly put a financial burden on as far as having to hire temporary staff to accommodate and make up for the volunteers who are typically here,” said Cathy Nesten, the food bank’s communications manager. “Last year, we had over 42,000 volunteers who helped us pack and sort food. So it makes a huge difference.”
But getting that food has become more difficult, too. Remember those empty store shelves when the food supply chain dried up? That meant retailers and manufacturers had less food to donate to the Food Bank. About 90% of their inventory is donated food.
“So we had to get into the purchasing game much more than we’re used to,” said Nesten. “We were out there competing for shelf stable food along with the retailers as well so that was an expense we really did not want to have.”
The pandemic's impact on the economy, along with kids not being in school where they have access to free lunch and breakfast, has increased need. The Regional Food Bank's Food for Kids program served 25% more meals for children this summer compared to last summer.
“It’s so prolonged, the impact and response, that we have to step up and respond to is just a longer period of time and we know that it’s going to continue into the future,” Nesten said.