Press Releases

Pandemic causes increase in food insecurity - Foodbank recruiting new partners

Aug 19, 2020

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s eight-county service area has seen a tremendous increase in need due to the pandemic. Food distribution to hunger-relief programs continues to remain 20 percent higher than last year. In order to ensure families facing food insecurity have a safe place to turn during their time of need, the Foodbank is actively recruiting organizations passionate about hunger relief.

Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable response to hunger relief, estimates a 41 percent increase in the number of people facing hunger in the Foodbank’s region because of COVID-19, and a 51 percent increase in the number of children. Last year, there were more than 190,000 food insecure people in the region. Now more than 271,000 struggles with hunger, an increase of 80,000 individuals, children and seniors who do not know where their next meal will come from.

The emergence of new food programs in neighborhoods of need is vital to the community’s response to hunger. More food programs will mean easier access to safe and nourishing food for families facing food insecurity. An increase in available programs will help eliminate barriers to access, including transportation, limited open days and hours, and restrictions on the amount of times a family can visit a particular program.

“Charitable partners have been at the center of the Foodbank’s work since it was founded in 1982,” said Dan Flowers, Foodbank president and CEO. “Now, in the midst of this great struggle, with our network under such intense pressure, we are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19. The only way for us to sustain our work is to bring new partners on board to fill the gap. Churches, community organizations and charities of all kinds are sought to join us as frontline distribution partners. It’s easy to join the Foodbank, and our staff will work hard to make sure the qualification process is as fast as possible.”

Though more families are struggling to put food on the table, the Foodbank continues to see hunger-relief programs within its network shutter their doors. Currently, the Foodbank’s network consists of approximately 500 pantries, hot meal sites, shelters, children’s programs and other hunger-relief programs. This year, however, 11 partners operating 19 hunger-relief programs have ceased operations, some because of COVID-19. In addition, approximately 70 programs have temporary closed because of the pandemic.

Some organizations close because their primary source of funding comes from church patrons’ donations, and their church is not yet open. Other food programs have a lack of manpower as volunteers tend to be retirees in the high-risk category for contracting COVID-19 and are choosing to stay home. Sometimes organizational changes and challenges may close pantry doors.

Prior to the pandemic, the Foodbank knew it would need to recruit new hunger-relief programs in order to meet the Meal Gap, the difference between what is needed to feed food-insecure households compared to what is available to those households through the Foodbank’s network. Now that the coronavirus has stripped many families of their savings and full-time work, and has forced some hunger-relief programs to close, the need for new food programs is more vital than ever before.

“Because of the strength and resilience of our existing network, we’ve come closer than ever to meeting the Meal Gap in our service area. Through new and sustained partnerships, we can provide enough food in our communities for families who need it,” said Flowers.

If interested in joining a collaborative network of organizations dedicated to fighting hunger in the community, consider joining the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank as a hunger-relief partner. Benefits include:
• access to fresh produce, dairy and bakery items
• access to a wide variety of shelf-stable food items
• access to government-funded food
• free training opportunities, including cooking demos, service delivery, best practices, volunteer recruitment and more
• the convenience of 24/7 online ordering

For more information on becoming a hunger-relief partner, please contact the network partners and programs department at 330.535.6900 or to begin the application process. Partners must be a 501(c)(3) or equivalent status from the IRS to qualify for partnership. Most churches and faith-based organizations are eligible.