Because the cessation of COVID-19 deprived Oregon residents of their livelihoods, a non-profit organization providing food for poor people witnessed a dramatic increase in demand.
Oregon Food Bank says it can start short of supply soon after two weeks from now.
“The demand for food aid is increasing and increasing dramatically,” said food bank CEO Susannah Morgan. He hoped, without additional resources, his organization would not be able to meet food demand every week: “I am worried. It can happen two weeks from now or four weeks from now or eight weeks from now. It depends on how quickly other resources come along played. “
Food demand from food kitchens and public kitchens is the latest sign of COVID-19’s impact on the Oregon economy. This is another way the public sector might need to move even though tax revenues are expected to dry up.
And that means that even when state officials deal with a public health disaster, they have to deal with others who are ready to erupt.
“I see a humanitarian crisis,” said Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House, which serves food for homeless people in the Old City, where queues stretch out in front of the door to the block. “I can’t believe I’m using that term with a hyperbole.”
Oregon Food Bank, which distributes food through 21 regional food banks and ultimately to 1,400 food pantry and eating places throughout the state, has requested $ 7.5 million from the state as part of an emergency package to discuss COVID-19.
The Oregon Legislature officially endorsed a request for food assistance last month. But no amount has yet been agreed upon, and Governor Kate Brown has postponed holding a special session because the state is finding out what resources are needed to fill gaps that are not in the federal COVID-19 aid bill.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The effects of economic closure in the entire state sway down to people on the edge of poverty. Oregon people who previously didn’t need help need help; people who used to need a little help now need a lot.
Oregon Food Bank does not yet have hard data on how much more food is served in kitchens and other food places, but anecdotally, non-profit organizations report an increase of between 20 and 60 percent, Morgan said.
“We hear many people say, ‘I lost my job,'” Morgan said, adding that non-profit partners usually encourage people to apply for unemployment and food benefits, but there is a lag time before people see it.
Over the past three weeks, Blanchet House has seen a record number of people looking for food. In the first week of April, staff and volunteers (who, according to Kerman, would “fight through zombies to get to our house” to help) serve 9,700 meals – almost double the number from the first week of March. The first week of the month is usually the time when the amount of food needed decreases because public benefits are available at the beginning of the month.
The people on the street are under new pressure – with the library, Starbucks and all the restaurants closed, they are outside all the time.
“We have done whatever was needed,” Kerman said. “We must completely rediscover our operations. Our hearts are broken for the people we serve every day.”
In the past, more than three-quarters of the food served by Blanchet House was donated. But now the restaurant is closed and has no advantage to contribute. Blanchet House also has to package its food instead of serving it in a restaurant style. Both factors increase the cost from 33 cents to $ 5 per meal.
The Homeless Service Joint Office in the city stepped in to give $ 260,000 to the Catholic Charity Agency a month for 40,000 meals, some of which will be for the Blanchet House as well as for food in the east including in the St. Catholic Church. Francis of Assisi.
“If they do not get volunteers and donations, we must intervene,” said Denis Theriault, spokesman for the joint office.
But food shortages seem to affect more people than just those who live outside.
Mainspring Portland, a small food pantry on Northeast 82nd Avenue and Fremont Street, has seen lines on a block or two.
The food kitchen shifts operations to parking lots to make room for social distance and institutes new rules – “if you touch it, you take it” – for grocery-style operations. But most of the 60 ordinary Mainspring volunteers, many of them senior citizens or parents of school children, were unable to come. That means recruiting temporary workers, paying overtime and looking for more funds because the food pantry is trying to meet demand.
Mainspring serves 200 people a day in the past; Last Thursday, it served 3,000.
“I think this will be a growing problem,” said Gabrielle Mercedes Bolivar, Mainspring executive director. “That would be months before [people out of work] rehired. “
House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) said the country needed to act quickly.
“The scale of this crisis has caused a dramatic surge in Oregon residents dealing with food insecurity, applying for SNAP benefits and asking for more help,” Kotek said. “We need to do more at all levels to help those who struggle to find the next meal for themselves and their families.”
The federal aid package includes support for more food. But Morgan said that Oregon Food Bank did not expect to see that food arrived most quickly in July.
The state emergency coordination document said officials “carried out a risk analysis and preliminary planning for food shortages.”
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