As we pass the one-year mark of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, the United States continues to see the deep impacts of unemployment and economic insecurity resulting from the unprecedented health crisis.
Families financially impacted by the pandemic are having to choose between paying their mortgage or rent, critical medicine, childcare, and, in particular, putting food on the table. According to the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America®, more than 42 million people across the United States may face hunger because of COVID-19, including a potential 13 million children.
With these funds, Feeding America member food banks serving Atlanta, Chicago, Malvern, PA, Orlando, Sacramento, and Washington, DC will be able to provide more meals to families in need.
The American Rescue Plan was an important step forward to bring large-scale economic relief, but government action alone is not enough. Private sector and philanthropic efforts have a vital role to play in supporting the long-term financial recovery of people and families.
Our new partnership with Feeding America supports the Siemens Foundation’s ongoing commitment to advancing economic, social, and racial justice, including by narrowing gaps in access to quality and affordable services that have contributed to the growing inequities we see a year into the pandemic. Not everyone has the high-speed internet necessary to work or learn from home. Clean drinking water is no longer a guarantee in numerous places. And many households experiencing food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs.
So, to learn more about Feeding America’s mission and the state of hunger and food insecurity in America, we reached out to their Chief Development Officer Casey Marsh. See her responses to our questions below.
Q: We associate COVID-19 with a healthcare crisis. Can you explain to us how the pandemic has also created an unprecedented hunger crisis?
Food insecurity existed long before the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, 35 million people – or 1 in 9 people – faced hunger in America. That’s 35 million people too many. Sadly, this pandemic has thrust even more of our neighbors into food insecurity. Millions more are facing hunger due to unemployment, school closures and/or sudden expenses due to illness. We project more than 42 million people may face hunger this year as a result of the pandemic. And, more of our neighbors are relying on charitable food assistance to make ends meet.
Food bankers, volunteers, and partner agencies are on the front line ensuring our neighbors have the food they need during this difficult time.
Q: What are the most impactful ways that the private sector, philanthropic organizations like ours, and concerned citizens can make a difference to help people experience food insecurity?
Feeding America knows that charity alone cannot end the hunger crisis for children in America. Public-private partnerships are critical for overcoming the challenges COVID-19 has created for the charitable food assistance system. This has always been Feeding America’s approach. Private industry, non-profit and faith-based organizations, and volunteers are needed in tandem with significant government support and cooperation with federal, state, and local government agencies.
Together, over the last year, we have been able to help provide billions of meals to our neighbors. And we’re proud of that. But the need is significant and, together, we can do more.
Food banks clearly play a vital role in our communities. Help us understand just how important these organizations are for supporting food security and how they’ve adapted during the pandemic.
The Feeding America network of 200 local food banks and 60,000 meal programs is responding every day in several different ways to help children and families in need. In 2020, our network distributed more than 5 billion meals to our neighbors in need. That’s nearly 25 percent more than 2019.
Food banks have also innovated to safely serve our neighbors in need. They’ve adjusted their distribution models to safely serve people while they wait in their cars. Food banks also worked to ensure populations at high risk of hunger, including seniors, could remain safely at home and still receive the nourishment they need. Also, once schools closed, food banks rapidly changed the way they reached families. In many cases, food banks moved to packing family boxes that contained enough food for the household that families could pick up alongside school meals with a drive-thru model.
Food banks are critical members of the community and they’re working hard to ensure that people have meals when they need them most.
Q: Tell us how you came to devote your career to this issue, and are you hopeful that ending hunger is possible?
I have devoted my career to working towards social justice, on a local level with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, globally with UNICEF and now here in the U.S. with the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, Feeding America. The strength of the Feeding America network is its people – people working day in and day out at member food banks and pantries throughout every county in America with a common mission and vision that no one should face hunger and that we all have a role to play to change things. With that strength of community, and with the scope and scale of Feeding America supporters, I am hopeful that ending hunger is possible.
Editor’s Note: In addition to supporting Feeding America, the Siemens Foundation and Siemens have supported more than $8 million in recent grants and donations to benefit supplier diversity groups, the CDFI Fund, community health centers, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
*$1 helps to provide at least ten meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks.