December 2, 2020

Many Americans are facing hunger this holiday season—here’s how you can help

Food banks need assistance more than ever right now, and we’ve gathered resources for how you can donate and volunteer.

Photo via Joel Muniz/Unsplash

This is the time of year when people normally gather with loved ones to share meals. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted our ability to celebrate together—the ensuing economic fallout has also affected people’s ability to put food on the table. Food banks across the country are reporting miles-long lines and looming shortages this holiday season.

According to an analysis from nonprofit Feeding America, 15 million more people are living in food insecure homes this year compared to pre-pandemic levels, and food banks have had a 60 percent increase in demand compared to last year. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, this food insecurity has both immediate and far-reaching health consequences, some of which interact with and exacerbate COVID-19.

What can you do to help? Donate to or volunteer with a food bank in your community. FoodFindr is an app and website that can help you find nearly 50,000 food assistance centers from across the country. “With no personal information needed, we show your current location and the locations of every program nearby that can give you food for no cost,” writes FoodFindr founder Jack Griffin.

For what to donate, Feeding America suggests items like peanut butter, pasta, rice, and certain canned goods. The organization says not to donate leftovers, potentially expired foods, baked goods, or anything else highly perishable. When in doubt, the best thing to donate is cash, as food assistance organizations work with farmers and corporate partners to buy fresh food for a lower price than an individual consumer can.

If you’re looking to volunteer your time, start by ensuring that your local food bank is taking on volunteers and what dates and times work best for them. You might help assist with a no-contact drive-thru system that’s become popular during the pandemic, or drive to deliver meals to those in need. Check with the organization you’re working with for COVID-19 guidelines for how to volunteer while maintaining social distancing. Ideally, volunteers will be those who are not at increased risk of COVID complications. Additionally, if you are at risk or simply being cautious, many food banks have a need for virtual volunteers to help with reaching out to donors and fundraising.

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