Hunger is a huge problem locally and nationally for millions of people. One in six Americans are facing hunger with Covid impacting many families, leaving them jobless and hungry, not having food to put on their families' tables day in and day out.
Food pantries are getting hit twice as hard because they distribute the majority of the food to millions of people. These pantries have lines full of people for hours and are running out of food due to over-demand.
Locally in New Jersey, the food pantry Table to Table has given food to 38 million people during 2020, the highest outreach in 21 years.
Owner Ilene Isaacs says, "Even though the vaccine will ultimately be distributed and the pandemic itself will begin to subside, the economic effects of it are not going to subside."
Table to Table provides food for those in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties. Isaacs says they are preparing for the long run because it will be a long time before all the families get their jobs back and are stable enough to have food for their families again.
Isaacs' goal for 2021 is to provide food for 39 million people. However, she expects the need to be even higher.
"Even if it was a perfect world and everybody who lost their jobs got called back to work — which realistically we know is not going to happen — we would then go back to a situation where our waiting list continues to grow."
The unemployment rate increased to 10.2 % in November, 2.2% higher than in October. By the end of November, only 58% have regained their lost jobs since last spring.
From March to October 2020, food banks nationwide delivered an estimated 4.2 billion meals to people in need. Over 80% of food banks are serving more people than they did this time last year.
The pandemic hasn't only affected our older generation. Hunger is taking its toll on our youth as well. Right here in Monmouth county, a third-grader recently revealed a stunning confession during her zoom call. She shared that she was starving because there was barely enough food for her family and that her mother lost her job due to this pandemic.
This is happening in all NJ districts. "Food scarcity is in Neptune. It's in Asbury Park, Red Bank, Freehold and sections of Toms River, sections of the outer islands, sections of Stafford Township, parts of Lakewood," said the former lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno.
Guadagno has a food pantry where she and her team help out these kids that dates back to 2019.
"Pre-pandemic, we worked with teachers to identify the hungry children. In 2019, we had 1,000 kids enrolled in our Backpack Program," said Guadagno. "As the pandemic increased and got worse, the number went drastically down. You may think that's a good thing, but no, the more the numbers go down, the more the number of kids and their families are going hungry. Then the pandemic came. I asked my staff to try and find the kids anyway. By September (2020), we had only hit 300. I said, 'Oh my God, this means we're missing 700 kids. That's 700 kids who are not getting enough food."