January 29, 2021

Hunger's reach is long. Here's how you can help

David Griffin wants you to know COVID-19’s effects reach across all walks of life.

“Hunger,” said Griffin, director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina, “is not exclusive to the kind of car you drive or where you live.”

Action Pathways Second Harvest is one of dozens of Feeding America food banks that Duke Energy aids in the seven states the company serves. During the pandemic the company has donated more than $8 million to food banks, educational initiatives, bill assistance, small businesses and emergency funds. Over the holidays, the company and its employees donated enough money to food banks through Feeding America to provide 1 million meals.

“Across our communities, many continue to face financial and emotional hardships as a result of the pandemic,” said Duke Energy Foundation President Katherine Neebe. “We know the needs are great for many and partnering with Feeding America and its network of food banks to help with hunger relief is one of the ways we can continue to support our customers and communities.”

Duke Energy employees have a history of giving back to their communities, she said, and supporting Feeding America food banks through donations of money and goods as part of the national MLK Day of Service continues that tradition.

Before the pandemic, national food insecurity levels were the lowest they had been in 20 years, and now Feeding America projects 1 in 6 people (more than 50 million) are food insecure, said Lauren Biedron, vice president of corporate partnerships for Feeding America.

Across the country, 85% of food banks said they’re serving twice as many people with about 40% seeking help for the first time.

Donations of food and other goods are at the heart of food bank operations. Now food banks need more help handling the growing inventory, along with space in warehouses, additional staff and funding.

The nonprofit Action Pathways is the parent company of Second Harvest Food Bank. Action Pathways focuses on the well-being of the area’s communities through housing, education and hunger relief. The food bank itself operates as a warehouse from which a 260-member network of food pantries, soup kitchens and other hunger relief efforts are able to pick up food.

Member agency participation dropped with COVID-19, so Second Harvest began offering mass distribution drive-throughs. They’ve held more than 50 since May 2020.

About 23% of the population in the agency’s service area lived in poverty before the pandemic, and this number has grown partly due to the lack of health care as well as a heightened risk of preexisting conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

Communities already at poverty level are faced with the choice between work and paying the high costs of child care for their children during virtual learning or remaining in the home.

The face of hunger has changed with the pandemic, Griffin said. Hunger is not just affecting those who are unemployed but also people who are working and facing temporary hardships.

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