When the COVID-19 crisis hit, closing jobs and schools, Feeding America West Michigan quickly saw a ripple effect. As neighbors who had never before needed food assistance found themselves facing empty cupboards, and those already facing hunger found it even more difficult to make ends meet, the need for our services grew exponentially.
But just as quickly as the need increased, many stepped up to meet it — including generous businesses, grantors, individual donors, agency partners and even the Michigan National Guard. In the height of the pandemic, with the support of these hunger heroes, we distributed 42 percent more food than the same time frame last year.
The increased need for food support during this time was largely the result of unemployment. Even as many businesses have reopened, many of our neighbors are still struggling — the few months of uncertainty having completely changed their financial outlook for the rest of the year and even beyond.
We don’t expect the heightened need to diminish anytime soon. Before the pandemic, 1 in 8 neighbors in our service area were food insecure — meaning they had inadequate resources to acquire enough food for a healthy, active life. The food insecurity rate is projected to increase to more than 17 percent, or 1 in 6 neighbors this year. Children are even more at risk: 117,870 are expected to face hunger in 2020, up from 67,530. But wherever there’s a need, with the help of countless hunger heroes, the food bank is there — every day of the year.