Food banks seeing surge from people in need during coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 11:11 AM, Mar 23, 2020

ARLINGTON, Va. – Within an hour of a food bank’s opening came a delivery organizers have been counting on: frozen chicken by the pallet.

“Two weeks ago, we began preparations for the future,” said Charles Meng, director of the Arlington Food Assistance Center in Virginia.

Meng remembers the last time they encountered a sudden spike in need – right after 9/11.

“We saw a very significant increase at that time,” he said. “And so, this is just that on steroids.”

The center typically serves about 80,000 pounds of food to 2,400 families a week. One-third of those they help are children under 18, but the numbers are starting to climb.

“We expect to see is many more of those families come to us. That's really going to be the first bump up,” Meng said.

Like many food banks across the country, the economic conditions brought on by the coronavirus are stretching their resources and those of families all over the country.

“It will last them until we come back on Friday and I don’t have to worry about what they’re eating,” said one parent, Sarah Baldrick, who was in Ohio picking up food, during a distribution at a local school there.

There is some cause for concern, though, when it comes to food bank donations. So far, the food assistance center says they are still getting help from corporations, companies and individuals. However, they are seeing trouble from some supermarkets.

“That amounts, in our case, to about 40-percent of the food we distribute -- have all but dried up,” Meng said of the food bank’s supermarket donations. “So, we're going to have to significantly increase the purchasing of food for our families.”

That means they now have to count on monetary donations to buy food for those in need, at a time when people’s pocketbooks are taking a hit.

“I'm relying on the generosity of this community,” Meng said. “We all have a need to survive this time.”

It is a time that’s now filled with uncertainty.

For more information on the Arlington Food Assistance Center, click here.