A new study says Delaware is projected to have some of the sharpest increases in food insecurity this year, with nearly 30% more children facing hunger.
The impact of the pandemic has been “devastating” to people facing hunger, according to the Food Bank of Delaware.
At the same time, higher unemployment payments and increased access to food stamps have helped curb the number of people seeking help from the Food Bank of Delaware during the coronavirus shutdown.
“Our concern is what happens when those extended unemployment benefits and the pandemic EBT card is no longer available,” said Kim Turner, spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Delaware.
“We anticipate we might start seeing more people in the lines of the food distribution again,” said Turner.
Feeding America, an umbrella organization that represents Food Banks, said in a recent press release that Delaware’s food insecurity rose to 17.8 percent from 12.6 percent after the layoffs and lockdowns of the pandemic.
Child food insecurity rose to 28.2 percent from 19 percent, the survey said.
That means that 171,930 residents of Delaware, including 57,270 children, could experience food insecurity in 2020, the release said.
That translates into one in every six Delawareans not having enough to eat.
The numbers of families seeking help at the Food Bank’s monthly drive-thru pantries reflected the rise in need, as well as help from the government, Turner said. The Food Bank of Delaware is a member of Feeding America.
The Food Bank served 4,796 households in drive-thrus in May, down from the 5,935 it aided in April as the coronavirus shutdown and job layoffs peaked. That was still 200 more than in March.
In a drive-thru pantry Friday in Middletown, the Food Bank served 697 households and on Monday in Woodbridge, it served 641, Turner said. A Kent County drive-thru is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m at the Dover International Speedway.
“Tomorrow in Dover, I anticipate it will be in the 600s,” Turner said.
Families are also receiving help from other organizations are offering food pantries and drive-throughs.
Even with businesses and public life reopening, it could take a decade for those numbers to fall to pre-pandemic levels, just as it did after the Great Recession that ended in 2009, according to Turner and Feeding America.
“We hope that as things reopen that people will be able to get back to work,” Turner said. She worried that people who deferred their mortgage or rent payments until July 1 will have to pay them now.
“I know this is going to be a slow recovery for some people in our community,” Turner said. “We hope that people will be able to get back on their feet, but we are prepared to meet that demand if it increases once the programs end.”
Turner said the Food Bank greatly aided by an outpouring of donations as the shutdown started. Their new warehouse in Newark, which opened in April 2019, also kept food flowing into the community.
The 80,000-square-foot space allowed the Food Bank to accept more shipments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture than it could have stored at its old Garfield Street address. The USDA shipments included food bought by the government to keep the industry afloat after China stopped buying American goods in a tariff war with President Donald Trump’s administration.
Most of the stockpile is gone now.
“We’ve already distributed the amount of products that we thought we would distribute five years down the road,” Turner said.
To illustrate how much food had been shared, she pointed out that in 2019, the Food Bank distributed 8.6 million pounds of food. Since March 16, it’s distributed 5.1 million pounds.
Another telling statistic: In April 2019, the Food Bank distributed 702,390 pounds of food. In April this year, it distributed 1.5 million pounds.
“Our distribution numbers doubled from April 19 to April 2020,” she points out.
While donations have slowed, there are still people and groups interested in helping.
For example, DART is sponsoring a COVID-19 Stuff the Bus campaign this week to provide non-perishable donations to the Food Bank. It will mimic the same workings as the annual holiday Stuff the Bus campaign, which asks people to bring enough food to stuff a public bus.
Donate by bringing food: Tuesday, Safeway at 190 John Hunn Broad Road in Dover from 9 .m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, Shoprite of Four Seasons at 700 Plaza Drive in Newark, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday, Shoprite of Brandywine Commons, 1300 Rocky Run Parkway, 9 a.m. to 4 p,.m.; Friday, Shoprite of First State Plaza, 1600 W. Newport Pike, Stanton, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more on how to help the Food Bank, call 302-292-1305 or go to www.FBD.org.