Good Shepherd Food Bank Projects $6.3M in New Costs Due to COVID-19 Crisis
Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger-relief organization, announced that an estimated $6.3M in additional resources will be needed over a six-month period to help Mainers struggling with hunger as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This represents a 150 percent increase to the baseline six-month operating costs.
This announcement comes on the heels of a release earlier this month from Feeding America that estimated that its entire nationwide network of 200 food banks could experience a total of $1.4 billion in increased expenses over six months.
Rising unemployment and poverty due to quarantine and stay-at-home orders are impacting people already at risk of hunger and could result in up to an additional 67,000 Mainers experiencing food insecurity, an increase of 39 percent, based on projections using Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap data.
The challenges posed by COVID-19 are amplified as food donations to Good Shepherd Food Bank and its network of more than 500 partners decline, due to increased consumer demand and supply chain challenges, and less shelf-stable food is available for purchase. Furthermore, hunger-relief agencies are seeing a sharp decrease in their regular volunteer workforce, many of whom are retired senior citizens and school/corporate groups.
“The charitable food network in Maine has never seen challenges like those posed by the COVID-19 situation,” said Kristen Miale, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “Between the disruption to our supply chain and the understandable decline in volunteers across the state, our partner hunger-relief organizations are operating in the face of unimaginable change.”
Based on a recent survey of its partners, which include food pantries, meal sites, shelters and schools, Good Shepherd Food Bank found that 90 percent of partners are experiencing increased demand, with 65 percent seeing both an increase in community members seeking assistance for the first time and regular patrons seeking more frequent assistance. Approximately 75 percent of the people seeking first-time help are doing so due to a result of job loss due to lay-offs or furloughs in the household.
The Root Cellar in Portland reports seeing an increase of 15 percent in new families, plus a 30 percent increase in regular member attendance—families who would only come once in a while are now coming for every distribution. Similarly, the Ridge View Community School that runs a school pantry program in Dexter has gone from serving 40-50 families a week to 110 and the nearby Dover-Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard has gone from serving 85 households to 140, plus an additional 10 deliveries to home-bound community members.
This initial impact analysis of the COVID-19 crisis on the charitable food network in Maine is modeled on results from regular surveys of food pantries, meal sites, and other hunger-relief organizations, estimates about food purchases and other key cost drivers, as well as data from Feeding America and its Map the Meal Gap study.