Covid-19 Efforts Continue

Feeding America has analyzed the potential impact of the pandemic and we estimate up to an additional 17.1 million people could experience food insecurity, many for the first time. This represents a 46 percent increase from the 37.2 million who were food insecure prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.

 

In Illinois alone, 1,921,910 people may face hunger this year, many for the first time - an increase of 638,360 people because of the pandemic! This would increase the rate of food insecurity in Illinois from 10.1 percent of the population to 15.1 percent of the population.

 

During the outbreak, Feeding Illinois Food Bank members are continuing to provide core services while taking all precautions to protect their workers and minimize the spread of COVID-19. The requisite services of the food banks are acquiring, storing, and distributing food to roughly 2,400 member agencies in all 102 counties of Illinois. Essential back-office functions, such as agency relations, community outreach, financial management, and donation handling must also continue to operate at some level. All of these become more challenging as more staff work remotely and volunteers hesitate to continue any potential personal-contact activities at both the food banks and agencies.

The respective needs of the individual food banks are fluid and their responses are adapting to local situations. What follows is a brief synopsis of their most pressing situations and needs. The most critical needs are:

• Food - to supplant declining donations from usual sources and channels.
• Funds - to purchase additional foods and support expanded services.
• Volunteers - to help sort, pack, and distribute food at both food banks and agencies. 
• Boxes, Bags & To-Go Containers - to pre-pack food for alternative (i.e., social-distancing) distributions. 

All the food banks have expanded or incorporated some type of mobile, drive-through, or knock-and-drop distributions to facilitate social distancing, agency closings, and volunteer drop-offs. Demand for food and program assistance is expanding daily, with inquiries for food and where to find assistance escalating. SNAP Outreach teams report being inundated with referrals and inquiries; receiving more referrals in a day than they usually would in a month.

The most-drastic negative impact has been volunteers staying home that has essentially forced some agencies to close or take that precaution to protect their mostly-senior workforce. This is also impeding the food banks' ability to sort, process, and pack food and boxes.

If the situation continues, growing concerns are:

• Food supply, and the increasing likelihood, if not already the need, to tap into financial reserves to expand food purchasing to offset disrupted donation streams.
• Some agencies are also becoming concerned about the food supply and have started reaching out to out-of-network organizations for possible assistance.
• Increased special deliveries, such as those mentioned above, require more resources, time, and increased costs - straining food banks' budgets even further.
• Maintaining some critical services, such as SNAP Outreach assistance, with staff working remotely, and some residents not having access to the internet or phone service, etc.
• Security (i.e., personal safety and crowd control), particularly if food banks need to start doing more mass distributions in highly-populated impacted communities.

The Feeding Illinois and Feeding America food bank networks will continue to need additional food and funds from the government to help meet increased need, but the single most important thing we can do to put money into the hands of people who need to purchase food is to increase the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent for the duration of the economic downturn.

For every meal provided by our food banks, SNAP provides nine! There is simply no way that our network can make up for the unparalleled strength of SNAP to increase food security -  and stimulate local economies. Every dollar spent in SNAP benefits helps generate between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. Increasing the SNAP maximum benefit by 15would stimulate Illinois’s economy and ensure people facing hunger have access to the meals they need.

Projecting longer term, if the situation persists or worsens to the point of agencies being unable pickup at food banks nor residents seeking assistance able to visit food pantries or feeding sites, then food banks will have to devise a distribution network and systems that do not widely exist today - such as expanded, long-term home deliveries - which none of the Illinois food banks are adequately or readily-staffed to implement and sustain.

As Congress works on additional legislation to help families weather this crisis, we along with Feeding America, recommend:

  • Increasing TEFAP food and administrative funding.
  • Increasing SNAP benefits for all recipients by increasing the thrifty food plan by at least 15 percent for as long as the economy is weak to help promote economic stimulus and push against the economic downturn.
    • This will provide critical food resources for families and relieve some of the pressure on our network.
  • Increasing the SNAP minimum benefit from $16 to $30 to help individuals impacted by COVID19, particularly seniors, for the duration of the economic downturn.

While its generally been reported greater at-risk factors for COVID-19 among the general population are those people age 50+ and with pre-existing health conditions, the residents the Feeding Illinois food banks its network of local agencies serve may be equally, if not more, susceptible to this virus - due to lesser access to adequate health care and treatment, lower resistance or compromised immune systems, stigma or bias, or lack of information about proper prevention and care.

Feeding Illinois food banks and their agencies are trusted community resources, and our respective and collective efforts can be essential to your community’s health by:

(1) Providing nourishment to vulnerable populations during this time of heightened anxiety,

(2) Ensuring that we treat all people with respect and dignity, and

(3) Conveying accurate information to help protect the neighbors we serve.

Please consider helping us meet this obligation with a generous gift to provide continued - and expanded - support and relief to those individuals and families impacted most by the ongoing health emergency. 

To Help, Please Click on http://www.feedingamerica.org/covidIL

We pledge to direct your contribution to the food bank serving your area and where it can do the most good to help meet this continued crisis in Illinois. We are committed to serving people in need, wherever they are. We, along with Feeding America and numerous other private and public entities, are constantly and carefully monitoring developments regarding the spread of COVID-19. Feeding America is also actively consulting with FEMA, National VOAD, the USDA, and leveraging other partners who are in a position to support measures to ensure access to food for the most vulnerable members of our communities during this situation. 

Additional COVID-19 Information & Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html 

https://www.isbe.net/Documents/COVID-19-School-Closures-Letter-Guidance.pdf 

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus

https://www.fns.usda.gov/disaster/pandemic/covid-19

For assistance or further information, please contact the Food Bank serving your county, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.