As the number of people on unemployment increases, the number of people showing up at food pantries and designated free school lunch sites has picked up, too.
“We have seen the numbers increase as people are getting laid off from the retail and restaurant industries. We have seen an increase in the number of people applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits as well,” said Lillian Baulding, communications and engagement officer for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.
Yesterday, the food bank accepted a donation of 5,000 frozen meals from the United Way of Pioneer Valley. The food was loaded onto a truck in front of City Hall.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said the donation will help pantries in Springfield and across the region.
“The United Way has always been a great partner. They have always stepped up for this community,” said Sarno, adding that the Springfield Public Schools’ sites offering breakfast and lunch have served 42,500 meals since the effort began several weeks ago. “We have definitely seen an increase in families coming to get the food and we are planning on adding a dinner option as well.”
Paul Mina, president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley, said the donation came from Revolution Foods.
“They provide shelf-stable meals and fresh meals for school systems across the state,” he said. “It’s a great company and we are happy to be partnering with The Food Bank, which is a phenomenal organization that will ensure these meals make it to those who most need it.”
The meals, which include frozen chicken nuggets and vegetables or enchiladas over rice, will be distributed by the food bank to many of its 174 participating agencies.
“We normally provide 174 pantries with food, but there are a few pantries throughout the region that have been forced to close due to COVID-19,” Baulding said. “A lot of our member agencies rely on senior volunteers and many are staying home during this time.”
Both the food bank and the United Way continue to serve the community, but are in desperate need of donations, Mina said.
As for the food bank, which accepts food and monetary donations, the real need now is financial, Baulding said.
“For every $1 donated we can buy four meals. A can of donated food is going to cost between 79 cents and $1, but with that same donation we can feed a family of four,” she said.
Mina said that while this is a scary and difficult time around the world, the United Way has provided services through those difficult times.
“Our country has survived many calamities in the past. The United Way has been around for nearly 100 years and we are working very hard to get through this one. This too will pass,” he said.