The need for food assistance has nearly doubled throughout the Central Pennsylvania region as business restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic caused the unemployment rate to skyrocket.
People who would normally never think of asking for assistance, now stood in line at local food panties.
The Central Pa Food Bank has delivered over 50 million meals so far this year, according to Carla Fisher, marketing and communications coordinator for the food bank. This is a 50% increase from 2019, she added.
The food bank is serving 200,000 people per month, up from the 135,000 served in the months just prior to the crisis.
The food bank delivers it’s meals through over 1,000 partner organizations in the communities across a 27-county region.
In Lycoming County the American Rescue Worker’s food pantry has served 5,427 families this year, according to Program Director Cleveland Way. He added that May was the highest month, with 1,525 families served.
“These numbers have drastically increased this year compared to last year,” Way said. “That, I believe, is due to the loss of jobs and wages people have faced this year.”
The unemployment rate in the county more than doubled from March to May, rising from 6% to over 16% in a one-month period. Currently, the unemployment rate has dropped to 7%, still slightly above the region’s average of between 4% and 5%.
The food bank provided food to area schools and other food pantries to deliver to children and families. In addition, many local restaurants started lunch programs and gave away free meals to children and families throughout the county.
But as 2020 winds to a close, the need for food assistance is likely to continue on.
I believe we will continue to see this trend going into 2021 because of the complete uncertainty of the virus, work opportunities, the availability of the vaccine, and the public trust in that vaccine. This can bread fear and food insecurities,” Way said.
“While we remain hopeful for a swift end to this pandemic, we know that food insecurity will remain a significant issue in our community for a long time,” Fisher said.