Food Bank of East Alabama prepares for Thanksgiving; reflects on pandemic’s impact

Food Bank of East Alabama prepares for Thanksgiving; reflects on pandemic’s impact

AUBURN, Ala. (WTVM) - Food banks in Alabama, which have lost a lot due to COVID-19, will be receiving $3.6 million of CARES Act money to reimburse them for COVID-related expenses.

This news came as food pantries in East Alabama are getting ready to help thousands of people for Thanksgiving and beyond.

It’s a few days before Thanksgiving and there’s a bit of a lull at the Food Bank of East Alabama. The organization already finished distributing food and supplies to its partner food pantries and other agencies ahead of the holiday.

“It will be quiet for a few days after Thanksgiving. It will pick right back up for the Christmas season,” Director Martha Henk said.

Henk said they’ve been diligently building up their food supply ahead of the holidays, but food insecurity is always an obstacle in Alabama.

“If we could keep hunger relegated to the holidays, that would be just great, “ she said. “But the truth is, it’s a year-round issue.”

It’s a year-round issue made worse by the pandemic. Henk said they are distributing about 500,000 pounds of food per month and assisting about 35,000 people. That’s an increase of at least five to eight percent, and it’s a conservative estimate, according to Henk.

“[It’s] certainly a higher level than it has been in the past,” she said.

That increase in demand was coupled with issues with the food supply, such as decreased donations and empty shelves at stores.

“That was concerning in the sense I saw my food supply dwindle, go down, down, down against the backdrop of the need,” Henk said.

She said they’ve persevered with federal funding like the CARES Act, plus the work of their agency network and volunteers.

“We’re in it for the long haul, so we’re going to continue past Thanksgiving, past Christmas and into the new year,” Henk said.

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