Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the largest scale public health crisis in a century, our seven Feeding America Food Banks are getting more food more often to more people than ever before in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. Why? There are two reasons. First, there are more people needing food than ever before. Almost 2 million Michiganders are wondering where their next meals are coming from this winter.
FBCM categorizes the waves of people who come to us during this crisis into four groups. First, there are the Innocent, the school children who can no longer easily secure meals from school. Second, the Vulnerable, senior citizens who must weigh the risk of exposure in their efforts to procure food. Third, the Unexpected, who were working as employees of small businesses and service industry workers who never expected to need emergency food. Lastly, the Indefinite, those who are left behind as cases of COVID surge and the economy lags. Because of the long tail of the pandemic resulting in high unemployment, this group will need us longer and more than any of us ever had ever imagined.
Secondly, we have more food to distribute than ever before and a tremendous amount of that food comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the past several years, an unprecedented amount of food has come to our network as the USDA attempted to help our farmers weather the trade war with China.
Additionally, during COVID the USDA stood up a new program called CFAP – Farm to Families Box program with mixed success. It had excellent food but getting the food the last mile to the families who need it most was problematic for this program
The unsettling news is these two programs are ending and soon. To borrow a line from the iconic Game of Thrones show, “Winter is coming,” and it is coming soon. Harsher weather along with the long tail of the pandemic will certainly cause hardship on our network and the families we serve. You are needed to help us weather this perfect storm of food insecurity.
A 50/50 split is occurring right now in Michigan. The increased need due to the pandemic will continue to hover at 50% or more during the coming winter months. A 50% drop, known as the “commodities cliff” with the loss of these USDA food programs, will cause great stress on the charitable emergency food network. This heightened need and the “commodities cliff” will put pressure on our network to make up the difference with purchased food.
To help, you can make an immediate impact by going to feedmichigan.org to donate or purchase the most requested items for our food banks. You can also urge your U.S. Representative and Senators to pass a COVID bill allowing the USDA to purchase commodities from our farmers so we can all help Michigan families weather the storm of food insecurity during this great time of need.