Coronavirus pandemic causing massive increase in hungry families

The growing coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a significant rise in demand from the charitable food system in America, as the nation faces rising unemployment, school closures and rising poverty due to quarantine and stay-at-home orders. Feeding America is trying to make sure that nobody goes hungry during the crisis.

Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, was one of the two charities to benefit from FOX and iHeart Media’s “Living Room Concert for America,” which raised over $10 million and counting, but more help is needed to make sure all Americans can stay fed.

“I have never had an awareness of anything so jarring, so replete with challenges as what the charitable food system is facing right now and that’s because of what it means for people who are facing hunger,” Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot told Fox News.

The special concert attracted some 8.7 million viewers across FOX networks on Sunday and will re-air on Monday, April 6 at 9 pm ET. Feeding America is able to provide 10 meals for hungry Americans for every $1 it raises.

“What FOX has done is more than the money and the money is substantial,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “The money, in and of itself, is huge… in addition to that, the number of people who viewed that concert who had no idea their neighbors were having a food crisis.”

Babineaux-Fontenot said public awareness is essential, as the “Living Room Concert” drove people to donate time, reach out to local food banks and provide donations that might not even be quantified

“That is one of the biggest single events in our history,” she said.

Fox News and Facebook also made a joint donation of $1 million to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Thursday that he plans to donate $100 million. Even with the newfound awareness and generous donations, it’s unclear how long Feeding America can sustain its current program to supply meals to people who need them without additional help.

“The people who are showing up, so many of them, are people who have never needed us before. There are roughly 40 million people who rely on us for help every year, in one way or another and we’re seeing those numbers grow, in some places more than 50 percent,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “People who never dreamt they would need the charitable food system to feed themselves and their family are showing up.”

Babineaux-Fontenot expects the problem to get worse as more Americans lose their jobs because of the growing pandemic. While star-studded fundraising concerts and $100 million donations are obviously significant, she urged Americans to help however they can to help close the gap.

Members of the Washington Air National Guard help distribute food at the Nourish Pierce County food bank set up at the Mountain View Lutheran Church in Washington.
Members of the Washington Air National Guard help distribute food at the Nourish Pierce County food bank set up at the Mountain View Lutheran Church in Washington.Getty Images

“If somebody provides us with $1, that’s 10 meals. That’s huge. If all that they can muster is $1 and they find a dollar in a crisis to share with a neighbor, I applaud that dollar. I applaud every penny that people provide to this work and I want to honor every single donation,” Babineaux-Fontenot said.

Feeding America is a network of 200 food banks, which are spread out across the United States. They acquire food through purchasing it directly; accepting donations and federal government programs and then distribute it through a vast network of pantries, churches, food kitchens and other members of America’s charitable food system.

Babineaux-Fontenot said Feeding America will seek additional federal assistance and must continue to raise awareness to ensure nobody goes hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We serve every county and parish where hunger lives,” Babineaux-Fontenot. “We serve in the gap for people who just cannot makes ends meet no matter how they try and they find themselves not able to provide food for themselves and their family.”

Feeding America has a general donation opportunity for people who want to invest in their overall work, but people can also contribute specifically donate to Americans impacted by COVID-19.

“All the money goes back into communities specifically to address the additional challenges that we’re confronting related to COVID-19,” Babineaux-Fontenot said.

The Feeding America website allows anyone to search for the food bank that serves a particular zip code, allowing donations of food, time and money to impact specific communities.

“One of my great privileges actually, during this crisis, is that I know here are ways that I can help. I can only imagine what it would feel like to be in your home, watching television and seeing how challenging these times are for so many people and not know how to help,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “I believe Feeding America gives people a chance to do that in a way that they know will be meaningful because that money will go towards getting food in people’s bellies when they need it the most.”

FOX will re-air the “Living Room Concert for America” on Monday, April 6 at 9 pm ET.

The unprecedented concert offered a unique glimpse into the lives of celebrities who performed from their homes while observing social distancing guidelines. Artists including Alicia Keys, Backstreet Boys, Dave Grohl, Billie Eilish, Sam Smith, Camilla Cabello, Shawn Mendes, H.E.R., Billie Joe Armstong Demi Lovato, Tim McGraw and Mariah Carey used only an iPhone and whatever equipment they had on hand to broadcast their performances.

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