Detroit food banks overrun by coronavirus demand
Still, she and her household of six are dependent on less than half the income they had before the pandemic. “I’m very grateful to Southwest Solutions and Gleaners for the food. Really, any little help goes a long way right now. It’s stressful because you don’t know how long it will take. “
Last week in Delta County, Upper Peninsula, about 500 vehicles lined up to get free food from another pickup location. About 200 vehicles were turned away after supplies ran out, officials from two food banking groups said. Food banks across the state are reporting similar scenes in different locations.
Demand has grown in three waves, according to Knight, head of Michigan’s Food Bank Council.
First came families with children who relied on school programs for some meals. Then came a surge of seniors as centers that often served them closed in an attempt to stem the pandemic. Now comes the suddenly new unemployed, many of whom have never needed food banks before, Knight said.
State food banks just received a waiver from the federal government this week, meaning people looking for supplies don’t need to be interviewed and show they qualify for free groceries, Knight said. “We know everything changes quickly. The demand is coming from a lot of people who normally don’t need our services, ”he said.
Almost one in four of Michigan’s 4.76 million workers has been unemployed since mid-March. The University of Michigan estimates a total of 1.2 million jobs will be lost by the second quarter.
Among the employees in southwest Detroit on Tuesday was a 26-year-old Dearborn resident, Trent, who said he was too embarrassed to give his last name. Before the pandemic, Trent worked twice – as a bartender and waiter and in two different locations in Dearborn and Detroit. He had never used a food counter before.
“Either that or buy groceries with my credit card – and I know that’s crazy. And it’s depressing to think about it, to be honest, ”he said to get the free groceries. “I only have $ 18 in my bank account.”
He’s waiting for his first unemployment check, along with other incentives like the one-time IRS check and an additional $ 600 per week for workers like him being laid off because of the coronavirus.
“I’ll still be able to pay the rent, my student loan, the car payment, and everything else. But the situation is frighteningly tight, ”he said. On Monday he applied for a temporary job at Kroger.
In Metro Detroit, Gleaners has shipped another £ 950,000 since mid-March, which is enough for 32,000 households. That is on top of the 3 to 4 million pounds of food that is typically delivered each month. Not all 66 additional grocery locations are running out of groceries, said Stacy Averill, a spokeswoman for Gleaners. The locations are set up at each location twice a month. Gleaners staff is monitoring how many people go to each location and hopefully each will be equipped next time so they won’t have to turn people away in the future, she said.
The huge demand for food comes when donations from grocers have plummeted, several food bank officials said.
“The need for food is skyrocketing while donations are falling,” said Molly Kooi, spokeswoman for Feeding America Western Michigan. The food bank supplies the western part of the state and the upper peninsula. The grocery bank is spending $ 100,000 more a week to buy groceries as large donors like Meijer and Walmart have been unable to provide the amount it normally provides, Kooi said.
Meijer Inc. didn’t respond directly to a question about whether donations to various food banks have decreased. Instead, the Walker-based retailer suggested several ways to meet the new demand. This includes providing $ 2.2 million to supply over 400 pantry partners across the state Christina Fecher, a Meijer spokeswoman.
Also, the first shipment of grain, peanut butter and other staple foods Meijers secured for the Michigan Food Bank Council will be delivered by the end of the week, she said. Meijer intends to deliver food that can be kept for several weeks. In addition, Feeding America West Michigan donated a supporter of dry groceries such as snacks, canned foods, and beverages, and Detroit Blight Busters to $ 10,000. The various stores continue to provide other donations, she added.
In Washtenaw County, donations from local grocers have fallen in half while requests for food have tripled, said Eileen Spring, president and CEO of the Food Gatherers Food Bank.
Grocery store donations have stalled in part because retailers struggle to keep stores in stock for customers to buy, said Knight, head of the state trade association for food banks.
“Another point of stress is that retailers are struggling with logistics and transportation,” Knight said. “There is enough to eat. In the times we are used to it, it’s not about people – because so many things are fluid. It’s unparalleled. “
Another challenge: most food banks have lost most of their volunteers to home orders from the state. Washtenaw County’s Food Gatherers is one of several agencies that rely on National Guard troops to work.
“It’s a tsunami,” said Spring, the head of the food gatherers. ” We survived the first wave of sudden new challenges. But I think successive waves are coming. “
Louis Aguilar is a senior reporter for BridgeDetroit, a new, independently funded, nonprofit news and engagement organization focused on Detroit and its citizens.