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Food banks worried about the next wave of need amid pandemic

Posted at 5:08 PM, Nov 30, 2020

Food banks around the country are overwhelmed. It has become normal in recent months to see hundreds of people or cars in a line stretching for miles outside food banks and pantries. Some people are even beginning to show up hours before scheduled food distributions.

"I came here at 11 o'clock and there was already three people in front of me,” said Michael Sell, who waited outside a drive-thru food pantry that opened at 1 p.m. near Springfield, Massachusetts.

Sell is a retired mental health professional, who now relies on pantries in the region. He says he’s seen the pantry lines grow for months.

"It is almost incomprehensible how many people are hurting,” Sell added.

“Every distribution we are running is out of food, and I am calling suppliers, and I'm calling food banks like, 'we need more food’,” said Robin Bialecki, with the Easthampton Community Center.

Bialecki also works with the Western Massachusetts Food Bank to hold a drive-thru pantry several times a month. Every month the pandemic goes on, it has become more difficult to provide enough food for all the people in her community in need. There have been times where the pantry has had to ask people to take less food so they could help more families.

“A lot of people who normally give during the holiday season, they're keeping that food,” said Bialecki. “They have lost their jobs.”

Some people who used to donate regularly are now seeking help from her pantry. In the 19 years that she has organized pantry food distributions, she has never seen a need at this level.

“We definitely hope we do not get to the point where we will not be able to feel the need,” said Bialecki.

In the next few weeks, if Congress does not pass a stimulus package, it is estimated that at least 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits, and 11 to 13 million people could be evicted from their homes. Most of those people will have no other option but to turn to food banks, which are already at their brink.