(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Week after week, local food banks and pantries have seen more families rely on their services during this pandemic to provide food for their families.
This week, Second Harvest found out how many more individuals they're helping. The nation's largest hunger relief organization, Feeding America, released their 2018 annual data, including 2020's projections, showing COVID-19's impact on food insecurity throughout the country.
“This is the biggest jump that we’ve ever seen,” said Blake Haynes, Communications Coordinator for Second Harvest Food Bank.
Feeding America's "Map the Meal Gap" projections for 2020 show how impactful the coronavirus has been on food insecurity in Buchanan County.
“We’re looking at an overall food insecurity rate of 19.2% and childhood insecurity rate of 26.4%. If you think about that, 1 in 4 children in Buchanan County are food insecure. That’s an eye opening thing we’re seeing,” said Haynes.
In 2018, Buchanan County's food insecurity rate was 14%. This year, it's projected to go up 5.2%.
The county's childhood food insecurity in 2018 was 17.2%. In 2020, it's projected to increase by 9.2%.
Second Harvest said the jump in numbers show how dire the pandemic has been for families in the area. “We’ve heard comments from individuals that basically say, ‘we’ll pay for our electricity, our water, our utilities or our medicines over buying food,’" said Haynes.
The local food bank covers 19 counties, but said Buchanan County being the largest in population, it has seen the highest number of new families facing food insecurity this year.
Haynes said, “So, you’re looking at an additional 18,000 individuals that are food insecure.”
The more individuals relying on area food assistance is forcing food banks to dish out more food.
“Through our last fiscal year, we were able to distribute nearly 2.9 million lbs of food within Buchanan County,” said Haynes.
As 1 in 4 children in the county faces hunger, Second Harvest reminds community members, “Hunger has no bias, right? It has no race, no face, no gender. It affects everyone from all walks of life. One of the things I’ve always tried to attest to that is, what would you do if you lost your job yesterday or today? What would you do to stretch your dollar to provide for your family? Well, individuals are truly going through that right now,” said Haynes.
Second Harvest said the greatest way to help fight food insecurity in Buchanan County is to monetarily donate. If you'd like to donate, please visit Second Harvest's website.