Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Coronavirus

Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Coronavirus 1499 842 Harry Chapin Food Bank

Friday, July 24, 2020

The world has been turned upside down due to the Coronavirus and Harry Chapin Food Bank has not been immune from the effects of this pandemic. Yet, there is much to celebrate. Together, we have been able to distribute 11,267,296 pounds of food since March 1st and June 30th of 2020. By way of comparison, we distributed 6,528,955 pounds of food between March 1st and June 30th of 2019. This is a truly remarkable achievement for our community. It is stunning to ponder what we have overcome: hoard shopping, government shutdowns, school closures, massive disruptions in the food supply channels and yet we have distributed 9,389,413 meals to those who need food.

Harry Chapin Food Bank’s new normal involves complex logistics for food redistribution and an astronomical need for food throughout our five-county footprint. Prior to the pandemic, each week Harry Chapin Food Bank fed 28,000 children, adults, seniors, veterans and other individuals through hunger-relief programs in Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades and Lee counties. Last fiscal year, we distributed 26.7 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 22 million meals. Since the pandemic, we have experienced up to an 80 percent increase in the demand for food.  The sheer number of cars that line up for food will take your breath away.

We are proud that the only program we had to stop is our In-School Pantries and we plan to re-open those pantries once the schools reopen. All other programs are fully operational, although some distributions have had to modify in execution to meet social distancing best practices. Our drive-thru distributions with prepacked shelf-stable food kits supplemented with fresh produce have grown to 13 sites across our five-county footprint. Each week, we are distributing 6,000 kits that weigh 20 pounds providing a family of four with enough food for five days. These kits cost $30 each.

We have added four trunk rentals to our fleet of 17 trucks. Subsequently, we have hired 8 temporary employees, including truck drivers to assist in the increased workload. Our food sourcing team shifted into a food purchasing machine. Historically, the food bank spends an average of $450,000 a year on food. We are currently spending a million dollars a month on food. Our retail rescue continues to fluctuate week by week and we do not know when those levels will return to what they were before the pandemic. Space remains a premium in our warehouse and we continue to juggle delayed shipments of food. Yet, we manage to execute at nearly double volumes. We are incredibly proud of our team, our efforts, and our community.

This pandemic has shown a spotlight on the beauty of our humanity. Our colleagues are doing everything in their power to ensure that no one has to go hungry. Those who are waiting in the staggering car lines, many for the first time, are expressing sincere gratitude that your food bank is has served this community for 37 years. We are humbled by our community’s response. Thousands have given of their time or offered us funding and we couldn’t be more grateful. Each facet of our humanity working together to achieve a common mission, to provide nourishment to those in need. Beauty abounds.

Sadly, this pandemic has created a financial crisis for many in our community. We do not anticipate the financial situation of those who are hungry to improve any time soon. As the leading hunger-relief organization in Southwest Florida, we are steadfast in our commitment to lead our community in the fight to end hunger. Our ability to provide food into the community lies squarely on our ability to raise funds. Can we count on your continued support? Together we achieve miracles.

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