Food banks bracing for increased community need

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Food banks usually feel the heat whenever the weather gets cold, but adding a pandemic into the mix can be quite the uphill battle.

In September and October, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank finally felt like they were in the eye of the storm that was the “astronomical level of need” the pandemic created.

Now, as cases are spiking and unemployment numbers stay high, the food bank has to get creative, but luckily, they already have their community.

“People are always generous, but I’ve never seen anything like this year,” said Joe Arthur, executive director of the Pennsylvania Food Bank.

An extra helping of kindness always seems to be on the Central Pennsylvania menu. The Food Bank received a $50,000 donation Monday from Feeding America, Enterprise and an anonymous donor.

“If you do the math, that’s 300,000 meals that we will be able to provide from that one donation,” Arthur said.

The math isn’t always on the food bank’s side. Arthur said they have seen a 50 percent increase in service since the pandemic began.

“Last year at this time our unemployment rates were like 4 percent or less, and now they’re still in that 7 to 8 percent range — well that’s twice as many people,” Arthur said.

Plus, supply has started to become a bit more tricky. Arthur said some food items are hard to find.

“For us, that means that we have to pay more for each truckload of food, and we just have to keep working very hard to get it,” Arthur said.

They hope they don’t have to work alone.

“We’re letting people know that it is safe to volunteer with us, and we need your help,” Arthur said.

The food bank is taking extra precautions for its volunteers by doing temperature checks, spacing out workers and handing out protective gear.

They also always accept monetary or food donations because unfortunately, their job is never finished.

“This is your neighbors. This is people just like us,” Arthur said.

One day it could be you.

“This is really impacting a broad cross-section of people, and it’s time for us all to get together as a community and help each other,” Arthur said.

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