If you’ve caught any hunger-related headlines recently, you know that the pandemic has created unprecedented levels of hunger in our communities and across the country.
Today, 1 in 8 Minnesotans, including 1 in 5 kids, are facing food insecurity. That’s an increase from 1 in 11 before the pandemic took hold in March, and as with all facets of the pandemic, hunger is hitting communities of color hardest, worsening the hunger divide, according to data from Second Harvest Heartland.
What that looks like for CVC-TC food bank members The Food Group and Second Harvest Heartland is 30 to 50 percent increases in food distributed to community food shelves. It’s meant paying more for food as costs rise, supply chains tighten, and volunteer workforces shrink.
“This year is like no other. The ripple effects of COVID-19 on our community have created historically high emergency food needs and we are anticipating the peak need is yet to come,” explained Emily Eddy White, Director of Development & Marketing at The Food Group and CVC-TC Board Member.
Fortunately, the creative, committed, resilient efforts of local hunger relief agencies are keeping more Minnesotans fed than ever before. And the financial generosity of this community is helping them do so.
Open Arms of Minnesota, who specializes in providing scratch meals tailored to meet the specific nutritional needs of individuals living with illness, has increased meal production significantly to accommodate clients who are at higher risk of COVID infection, many of whom are also experiencing isolation.
At The Salvation Army, feeding programs have grown dramatically since March, with some locations seeing ten-fold increases in requests for services. Assistance with processing deliveries, food sorting, food box packing, and distribution is acutely needed.
Crisis response adaptations and hustle have looked different for organizations across the Cities, but one thing is universal among hunger-relief organizations like these: Volunteers are urgently needed!
These organizations are essential and exempt from most state and local COVID-related gathering guidelines, and each rely heavily on a volunteer workforce to keep expenses down and clients served.
“We’ve been able to fight back this surge in hunger because the community has been in it with us every step of the way, and we’re going to need them to stick with us for the long haul,” explained Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.
“The abundance of support and partnerships to feed our community is truly inspiring and it will take all of us together in collaboration to continue to meet the challenges ahead,” Emily Eddy White added.
Many hunger-fighting organizations are CVC-TC members and eagerly accepting volunteers:
- CEAP: https://ceap.org/get-involved/
- The Food Group: https://thefoodgroupmn.org/get-involved/volunteer/
- Open Arms: https://www.openarmsmn.org/volunteer/
- People Serving People: https://www.peopleservingpeople.org/home/volunteer-2/
- Salvation Army: https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/twin-cities/volunteer/
- Second Harvest Heartland: https://www.2harvest.org/get-involved/volunteer/#.XKzmhJhKgdU
Rest assured that the health and safety of volunteers, staff and clients are paramount for any volunteer shift, and group shifts are still options in many places.
Your volunteer time is not just essential for hunger-relief efforts, but good for you, too. From one Open Arms of Minnesota volunteer after a recent shift:
“For me, heading to Open Arms to volunteer was a welcome relief from the negative things going on---I felt good about being able to do something positive for those really hurting and needing comfort. Thank you for providing the opportunity to do that. I had numerous conversations with other volunteers and with clients, and it was good to listen to each other and lean on each other to process it all. And like most times delivering --- clients were so appreciative of the efforts made to bring them their meals.”