HATFIELD, MA (WGGB / WSHM) – Governor Charlie Baker called attention to food insecurity across the state during the COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
In western Massachusetts, demand increased dramatically during a pandemic with more and more families turning to food and kitchen banks during this uncertain period.
“This is a story that is playing in place after place in the Commonwealth,” Baker explained, Wednesday.
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Today, Baker highlighted the increasing demand for food support among families across the state by announcing funding for many organizations that are trying to help.
“Three million dollars in immediate assistance to the food bank, which has played a key role in this initiative so far,” Baker added.
Food Bank of Western Mass. It is among those who see an increase in needs.
“We have seen an increase in demand that is quite extensive and it starts immediately in March when everything starts to close and really reminds quite high,” said Christina Maxwell, program director with Food Bank of Western Mass.
Maxwell told Western Mass News that the food bank initially saw a 20 percent increase in food distribution.
“… And about a third of the people we see are new to the emergency food system, so that’s much higher than in a normal month. When maybe 10 percent of the people we see are new people, now it’s 30 percent, “Maxwell said.
Maxwell said, fortunately, during this difficult time, supermarkets and local farmers had contributed to the food bank.
“We have also been assisted by federal and state programs. MEMA also provided some food boxes for us and we have enough food for the requests we are currently seeing, “Maxwell added.
However, the West Mass Food Bank said they must adapt new business models to help feed their struggling communities
“We have and our member agents own and our food pantry is distributing outdoors and where we eat offers food to go now, rather than sit-down meals,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell added that many volunteers throughout the emergency food system were elderly, so some were forced to leave, leaving the Food Bank of Western Mass. With fewer volunteers during the most demanding times.
“We have to adjust how we get things done and our staff has jumped into doing something they don’t usually need to do,” Maxwell said.
At present, with so much uncertainty surrounding the corona virus, Maxwell said they were preparing for an increase in demand in the coming months.
“If children don’t go back to school physically and if food isn’t available to them like in spring … I’m just not sure if that will be the case or not … then we expect more people in the kitchen and eating places us, “Maxwell noted.
With the CARES Act coming to an end at the end of this month, Maxwell believes this will encourage families who are struggling for emergency food programs.
If you want to help the Western Mass Food Bank, Maxwell says they are looking for volunteers. For more information, you can CLICK HERE.