The pandemic has shaken many individuals emotionally and financially. The United States’ unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April earlier this year, and although it has dropped to 6.7% in November, many people are still recovering. Due to the effects of COVID-19, more than 50 million people may experience food insecurity in the U.S., including about 17 million children.
Before the pandemic, food insecurity in Indiana was already prevalent– especially in Marion County. In 2018, the food insecurity rate in Marion County was 15.3% overall, and 19.7% of children were food insecure. With the pandemic, food insecurity in Indiana has only been fueled.
The Midwest Food Bank is a local faith-based nonprofit that strives to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. During the time of a pandemic, the organization’s help is needed more than ever.
“We hope to bridge the gap between prosperity and poverty here in our community,” Midwest Food Bank Executive Director John Whitaker said.
On average, the food bank feeds 90,000 people a month in Indiana and 72 counties, Whitaker said. With more individuals and families needing aid, the organization will have distributed about 21 million meals this year.
The Midwest Food Bank’s grew by nearly $13 million this year, making the food bank 35% ahead from last year’s numbers even though the food system collapsed in March.
“We get most of our food from the surplus food system, so we don’t normally buy a lot of food,” Whitaker said. “So far this year, we’ve purchased well over $2.5 million worth of food that has to go out to the community.”
In comparison, Midwest Food Bank usually purchases about $50,000 worth of protein from a program called Promise for Protein, while the remaining costs are from transportation.
The increase in distributing food requires more volunteers, which has been one of the more challenging aspects the organization has had to work with due to COVID-19. The food bank has received aid from the National Guard and received local funding to hire temporary workers. However, there was a 65% increase in volunteers in November.
Another challenge has been finding space and receiving funding. However, Whitaker said the food bank has found new, unexpected resources that have greatly helped. For example, the city leased Midwest Food Bank the Lucas Oil Stadium and equipment at no cost.
“The most positive thing that’s come out of this is collaboration,” Whitaker said. “It’s like never before seen. The state and city principalities, nonprofits, the business sector, and just about everything you see people have come together to break down barriers and move forward.”
To donate or volunteer, visit the Midwest Food Bank’s website midwestfoodbank.org.
Be Well Indy Content Creator Intern | Former Purdue Marketing & Media Editorial Copywriter Intern | Former The Purdue Exponent Campus Editor