For Food Banks, Outbreak Means Higher Demand, Fewer Helpers

For Food Banks, Outbreak Means Higher Demand, Fewer Helpers

8:26am Mar 26, 2020
Eric Aft, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina. PAUL GARBER/WFDD (file)

The increasing number of people out of work and kids at home from school has put more pressure on programs that supply food to needy families. 

“The need is expanding at a rate of 25 to 30 percent just in the past week, and we think that's going to continue to grow,” says Eric Aft, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

Aft says that increase has been pretty steady across all the 18 counties the nonprofit serves. 

“We really are hearing a very consistent message that there seemed to be more new clients than they ever had before,” he says. “So there's not necessarily one hot spot.”

Still, he says the food supply, for now, is in good shape and the supply chain is working well. So he urges those with a need not to feel any sense of stigma for taking a donation.

“The beautiful thing about our community is that we’re here for each other, and this is the time that we really step up in that way,” he says. “We’re all just neighbors, whether we have a need or maybe we’re doing okay at the moment, it’s all okay.”

Second Harvest is ramping up their efforts, recently ordering several truckloads of emergency boxes and backpack products to meet the need for families and children.

Food banks across the country are facing a dilemma — a shortage of volunteers as demand grows. Many older volunteers have been told to stay home. Calls for social distancing are also complicating efforts to package and distribute food.

Pantries are shifting from letting people select items to giving them a sack filled with food to limit interaction and lessen the chance of passing along the virus. Officials say it makes them less efficient, but they don't have better options.

Aft says Second Harvest is feeling that volunteer pinch. He says the organization has taken steps to ensure their safety during the outbreak, including limiting the number of volunteers in any one place.

“We have very high cleanliness and sanitation standards here already, and those are increased during this time,” he says.

More information on volunteering can be found here

Second Harvest also has a COVID-19 response page with more information on community resources available during the outbreak.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here.

Copyright 2020 WFDD. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.
Support your
public radio station