One of the hidden casualties of COVID-19 is the loss of food sources for the nonprofits that feed hungry people in our community.
Think about it for a minute.
With the closure of restaurants, convention centers, event locations and corporate campuses, food pantries lost a major source of food donations. Add to that the loss of access to distribution sites when schools and other community buildings were required to close, and you've got the potential for a major community hunger crisis.
Urban Gleaners, a nonprofit with a 14-year history of reducing food insecurity and food waste in Multnomah and Washington Counties, normally collects over a million pounds of fresh food each year from local businesses before it can go to waste, then repackages and delivers it to people who need it—free of charge, no questions asked.
When the pandemic hit, the organization faced a 90 percent reduction in donations due to the forced shutdown of its donation sources. While donations are currently on the rise, it's gone from serving 4,700 people per week at 67 distribution sites to serving just over 2,500 people at only 11 sites. (At least half of those served are under 14 years old, and 70 percent identify as people of color.)
Because transportation is often the second barrier to food, behind economic hardship, and there are thousands of children whose families are unable to drive to pick up essential food from distant locations, Urban Gleaners has shifted to distributing food at parks throughout the city. They are also delivering food boxes directly to apartment complexes and school parking lots in high-need communities.
Though Urban Gleaners estimates that it will have lost at least half of in-kind revenue for the year, and it forecasts that program costs will increase by more than twenty percent, it is currently supplementing food donations and supporting local business by purchasing some products from local farms and small food businesses.
It is in the midst of fundraising to help combat hunger in our community, so if you can, please consider donating. If a neighbor or someone you know is facing hunger, here is a list of Urban Gleaners’ food pick-up locations and other resources.