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Metro Detroit food banks in need of volunteers as food insecurity grows during COVID-19 pandemic

Forgotten Harvest
Posted at 4:42 AM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 06:37:54-05

(WXYZ) — The holidays are a time of need every year, but the pandemic has made millions of Americans food insecure, and they're turning to food banks to bridge that gap.

But how are food banks handling the increased demand just one week before Thanksgiving? They're working hard to rise to the challenge.

The long lines at food banks across the country made headlines early on in the pandemic, but they haven't all gone away.

"It's like lines that are like two miles long and this is becoming a weekly occurrence," Forgotten Harvest CEO Kirk Mayes said.

Mayes added that the economy and job market never fully recovered, and workers laid off in the spring are still turning to food banks.

As the need grows, Forgotten Harvest is bringing more food to distribute, but keeping up with the need is a challenge.

Mayes said the pandemic is making it harder to recruit the volunteers they rely on to package, sort, and move millions of pounds of food, since corporations are no longer stepping forward in large groups.

"We're really trying to sustain our volunteer efforts from kind of the individual volunteer, the family that wants to come in to help," he said.

This year, more of Forgotten Harvest's food comes from the federal government through the CARES Act. Mayes said 2020 has brought instability to so many metro Detroit families and requires flexibility for organizations like Forgotten Harvest.

"Everything is a daily, weekly, monthly check possibility for a change, where last year, at least there were some things that we could depend on, and we'd stay steady, we could plan," he said.

The Macomb Food Program in Macomb County is also adapting to challenges this holiday season. Demand has been high since March and they're preparing for the need to grow during the holidays.

"This year we've seen a significant increase in the numbers that we're serving," Shannon Mallory said. "Last year it was around 170,000, we're already at 240,0000."

And the growth is coming from communities that have traditionally been stable economically, and where there was previously little demand for food banks. That includes northern Macomb County, and other areas like Sterling Heights.

"The face of food insecurity is your neighbor. It's your friend, a co-worker," Mallory added.

With the new COVID-19 restrictions in effect, shuttering bars and more, the need will likely linger.

Both Forgotten Harvest and the Macomb Food Program are looking for volunteers to help sort, package and move food. If you have time, it's a way to give back.

Volunteers wear masks, they're socially-distant and the organizations disinfect to keep everyone safe.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.