Largest food bank in US sees demand double amid coronavirus pandemic

Largest food bank in US sees demand double amid coronavirus pandemic

Millions of Americans are focused on making ends meet and keeping bellies full amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed many out of work, and exacerbated food insecurity for those in need.

And now, in a dire sign of the times, the nation’s largest food bank reports that demand has nearly doubled (and more than doubled, on some occasions) since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

The Houston Food Bank is currently providing about 800,000 pounds of food each day after recently surpassing an unprecedented 1 million-pound mark in a first since the spring, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Before the pandemic struck, the pantry had an average daily distribution of 450,000 pounds.

Pallets of various foods are stacked on shelves in the warehouse at the Houston Food Bank on Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Pallets of various foods are stacked on shelves in the warehouse at the Houston Food Bank on Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

“It had that feeling of a disaster, like the hurricanes in the Gulf,” Houston Food Bank President Brian Greene said of the overnight demand. “It was shocking how the lines exploded so quickly.”

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About 126,500 families have received boxes of food each week from America’s largest food bank, powered by workers and volunteers who sort, pack and load the food onto trucks, which travel to distribution sites through the greater Houston area.

Texas National Guard soldiers Spc. Esmeralda Zuniga, left, and Spc. Samantha McClasky, right, load boxes with various dairy products at the Houston Food Bank on Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Texas National Guard soldiers Spc. Esmeralda Zuniga, left, and Spc. Samantha McClasky, right, load boxes with various dairy products at the Houston Food Bank on Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Feeding America, a national network of 200 food banks, has also seen demand nearly double from the winter to the spring and summer of this year. Katie Fitzgerald, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the nonprofit, echoed that the food distribution surge “has stayed at a surge level” with no sign of demand ceasing.

Feeding America provided 2 billion pounds of food from April through June, up from 1.3 billion pounds from January to March.

Volunteers load non-perishable foods into green grocery bags for distribution to a local school's food program. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Volunteers load non-perishable foods into green grocery bags for distribution to a local school’s food program. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

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On a national level, some extra help is on the way. The USDA recently announced the authorization of $ 500 million to fuel a fourth round of food purchases for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, delivering fresh produce, dairy, milk and meat to Americans in need. Over 110 million food boxes have been distributed through the program since the first round of delivery in May.

Volunteer Sharely Gomez marks the windshield after taking information from clients in their cars as they wait in line at West Houston Assistance Ministries. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Volunteer Sharely Gomez marks the windshield after taking information from clients in their cars as they wait in line at West Houston Assistance Ministries. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

The U.S. economy lost a devastating 22 million jobs at the start of the pandemic, and 10.7 million have not recovered.

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Fox News’ Brittany De Lea, Jeanette Settembre and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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