Unemployed and without money due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people queue for hours in the United States to receive free food.
Food banks, which already served a vulnerable population, are multiplying distribution, but fear they will not be able to cope with growing demand, the AFP agency reported.
The same scenes are played across the country, from New Orleans to Detroit to New York, where the city government delivers free breakfast, lunch, and dinner to various parts of the city.
They are images of a desperate population, which in general has lost its job and therefore its income, waiting for the arrival of a check from the federal government, which approved in late March a major plan to support the economy.
But for some, like millions of undocumented immigrants, mostly of Latin American origin, there will be no check, the Donald Trump government warned.
– “I’m without anything” –
“I already have two months now that I do not work because I was almost one of the first that the virus caught, and then I do not have a job and neither do I have money,” Domingo Jiménez, an immigrant who stood in line for more than three blocks, told AFP. Friday to receive food from the municipal government in Corona, Queens, one of the neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19 in New York.
“I come here to get some food, whatever, because I am practically without anything,” he added.
On Tuesday, more than 1,000 vehicles lined up at a distribution organized by the Pittsburgh Food Bank in Pennsylvania.
In eight exceptional operations like this, some 227 tons of food were delivered, explained Brian Gulish, his vice president.
“Many people use our services for the first time,” he noted. “That’s why the lines are so long. They don’t know our network” of more than 350 collection points in southwestern Pennsylvania, he said.
On April 9, in San Antonio, Texas, about 10,000 vehicles lined up at a food bank, some from night until the next morning.
“We haven’t had any more work for months,” says Alana, a Latina who prefers not to give her last name in the city of Chelsea, on the outskirts of Boston, the most affected by the pandemic in the state of Massachusetts.
“Yesterday I saw a woman with a 15-day-old baby and two other children, her husband is unemployed, and he has no more food at home. I gave him what he had,” he told AFP during a food distribution by soldiers from the National Guard.
In Akron, Ohio, the needs of power banks rose 30%.
“Over the years, we built a supply chain that could meet certain needs,” said Dan Flowers, CEO of Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. “Increasing it 30% overnight is almost impossible.”
Food banks, including the 200 local affiliates of the Feeding America network, are receiving exceptional donations.
A regular bank taxpayer, giant JM Smucker (which produces Folgers coffee) made additional donations in Ohio, and Michigan’s Ugly Dog Distillery donated an entire truckload of gel alcohol in liquor bottles, Flowers said.
– More donations –
Donations also come in cash, from anonymous homes or from Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and the world’s greatest fortune, who offered $ 100 million to Feeding America.
Without the donations, “these food banks would not be able to meet the demand,” said Flowers, who is buying 35% of her supplies today, up from 5% in normal times, as the rest comes from donations.
The Food Bank of New York, one of the largest organizations in the metropolis, increased the volume of orders. “If we do it again after a week, prices may have gone up and the delivery time is lengthening exponentially,” said Zanita Tisdale, a director of the organization.
“Our employees don’t give more,” said Flowers. “They work so hard. We would like all this to end.”
Like many others, your organization does not accept volunteers, to avoid spreading the virus.
To alleviate personnel, the National Guard has sent soldiers to many severely affected cities, such as Chelsea.
After a month under stress, the network of food banks continues, but the concern grows.
“Provisioning is still enough, but in a month, we don’t know,” said Brian Gulish.
The economic support plan foresees $ 850 million in food for these banks, said Flowers, who hopes to reap the first benefits in June.
“What worries me is the next six to eight weeks,” he said.