Apr. 10—Food insecurity was a concern even before the coronavirus pandemic began.
However, as widespread unemployment created by the pandemic deepened, more families than ever were grappling with hunger.
For those who needed help, food banks were there.
With increased rates of requests, many food banks were running ragged, trying to keep up. Local food banks struggled to continue restocking their shelves as more and more families requested help.
Now, with new legislation, some food banks are seeing a slight reprieve.
With the Biden administration's food relief campaign, there has been over a $1 billion increase in food stamps per month. The recent round of stimulus checks, as well as changes to EBT cards, have also given people more money to spend on food.
With the government's aid, some have less need to go to their local food bank and ask for help.
That direct aid has led to less reliance on local food banks.
"We've seen the number of people requesting assistance for food go down a bit," Tony Crachiolo, coordinator of the Berea Food Bank as well as Bereans United for Utility and Rent Relief, said. "The government is giving more direct aid to people."
However, some food banks have remain unaffected.
Grace Now's director, Betty Plowman, said they have not seen an increase nor decrease.
"With the hours we're open, we're still serving anywhere from 50 to 60 families per week," Plowman said.
However, she said just because there hasn't been a drop or an increase in business, it doesn't mean there won't be. She speculated after the relief stops, the need for food will grow once more.
Crachiolo said the Berea Food Bank had seen a shrink in demand from clients after the government gave out the first stimulus check, as well as the check for $600.
"Basically, during the pandemic, at one point, we were serving four times the number of people," Crachiolo said. "Now, we're serving only about twice the number of people that we were serving in 2019, pre-pandemic time. Going into this year, in January and February, we were still at three to four times the number of people. So, yes, we're seeing a little dip."
"We're grateful that people are better able to afford things for themselves," Crachiolo said.
However, he doesn't believe the issue of food insecurity is over.
Crachiolo said until the economic recovery is in full swing, which he said it is not, food banks are going to see elevated requests for assistance.
"This is simply because most of our clients that were new clients had never been to a food bank before, or it had been some time since they had... So, I think until all of those people are back to work until those jobs are restored, and the employment figures are what they were pre-pandemic, we're going to continue seeing the elevated requests," Crachiolo said.