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Local food banks face tough challenges, donation shortages

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 2:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The pandemic brought its share of uncertainty and that still looms today and with that comes a shortage in charitable contributions.

Normally the demand at food banks is greater near the holidays but now that intense need for food is a year-round thing.

Economic factors with the pandemic may be improving and job availability may be on the rise, but the demand at local food banks is as strong as ever.

Food banks will look back on 2020 and 2021 as a historic time for their organizations with numbers of those in need rising off the charts compared to anything they’ve ever dealt with before.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic demand for our services is up 53-percent,” said Frank Sheppard with Feeding the Valley. “We’re distributing one and a half million pounds of food to the families we serve. That need has not lessened. We realize the needs of the pandemic are going to be with us. We’re doing our best to keep our inventory levels as high as possible to serve as many people as possible.”

Food insecurity is a big statistic in the food bank - look specifically at situations where a family may not know where the next meal will come from.

“The last 12 months have continued to grow. Each month we expand our distribution of food. Currently one in five children have a food insecurity issue. One in six adults. There’s a tremendous demand out there right now for food,” said Jason Shemwell with Feeding the Valley.

For Feeding the Valley Food Bank, the organization has relied on a number of factors to try to keep pace with demand.

“Donations are down so we’re very thankful for corporate donations and the USDA donations. Currently we’re distributing about 16-million pounds of food a year,” said Shemwell.

And with the East Alabama Food Bank, Martha Henk offers a perspective on need that is riding by the thousands.

“My food bank is responsible for seven counties in east/central Alabama,” said Henk. “Actually about 73,000 people fall into that category. A good picture of that is if you took them up to Auburn University’s football stadium they’d fill up three fourths of the stadium. It can be really overwhelming to think what good is my little bit going to do? If you break it down though and say my family can help one family. And if you do that, then we can make a real difference.”

WTVM is answering the call to help. We’re hosting a food drive from now until April 29.

Drop by any of our partner locations and drop food donations here:

  • SONS Chevrolet in Columbus
  • SONS Ford in Auburn
  • The Atlanta Postal Credit Union

On April 19, WTVM is hosting an all-day drop off event at our WTVM studio in midtown.

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