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Food assistance programs face challenges with growing demand during pandemic

Posted at 5:27 AM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 05:53:14-04

In the midst of the pandemic, food insecurity has increased nationwide and the demand for food assistance is growing.

Pre-COVID, Kids Food Basket in Grand Rapids was giving out around 9000 healthy meals to kids a day. Since then the need has grown so much, in the past six months alone they’ve served more than 420,000 meals.

Kids Food Basket CEO Bridget Clark Whitney tells us there’s a growing need for food assistance in several West Michigan communities.

“We've also seen a real roller coaster in needs, mostly based on what resources have been available,” Clark Whitney said.

Like in the Wyoming and Kentwood area where on average Kids Food Basket was handing out 500 meals to kids daily, seemingly overnight that number increased to nearly 3000 one week.

“The families they were serving, the families within those neighborhoods had simply run out of resources, many families who had not planned on being laid off or not planned on being furloughed had been furloughed. And so, stories like that happen frequently,” Clark Whitney explained.

Whitney says another reason for growing demand is due to more students being schooled at home.

“In our counties, we serve over 90,000 children receive free or reduced school lunch every single day without school being in session, those are meals that children would count on will be part of their daily resources that are no longer available and so the need the need is certainly great especially in areas where our children are not yet back in school,” she added.

Unfortunately, the increase in need of services like Kids Food Basket is coming at a time when food prices are rising.

“Since March 13th, our food costs at kids food basket had gone up by 66% in six months, and that was certainly not something that we budgeted for certainly not something that we had planned on, and those food costs and that increase has been a critical part of our ability to continue to serve good healthy nourishing food, each and every week day,” Clark Whitney said.

And while they continue to deliver healthy meals at record high quantities, the organization believes the demand is only going to increase

“Fortunately, many of our western Michigan supporters have given in so that's helped, and it is also a time where we're really stretching because we need to be able to continue to respond and face the harsh reality, that the needs in our community are not going to decrease,” she added.

Kids Food Basket is always accepting donations whether monetary or food, and are even looking for volunteers. For more on how to help, click here.