2020 has been riddled with challenges, as the novel coronavirus has changed life as we know it. It’s also caused millions more Americans to suffer from food insecurity.
1 in 6 Americans will worry about food this year, and 56% of households with children aren’t confident they’ll have enough food this December. 
Pretty staggering, right?
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the growing food insecurity crisis. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Food Insecurity?
Food insecurity describes a person or family’s inability to provide enough food to live an active and healthy lifestyle. It’s more than hunger – it’s the persistent fear of going hungry and the lasting impact that can have on people and families.
Food insecurity is both a global and domestic crisis. In the US, over 35 million people struggled with food insecurity in 2019. Globally, that number reached 135 million in 2019. 
In the US, every community — both rural and urban — is home to people and families who struggle to eat consistently. However, rural counties are home to more food-insecure households, making up 87% of counties with the highest rates. 
How has the Pandemic Impacted the Crisis?
While food insecurity has been an ongoing crisis, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem at an alarming rate. More than 50 million Americans — including 17 million children — may experience food insecurity in 2020, up from 35 million in 2019.
Food insecurity isn’t just a domestic problem either.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the number of people suffering from acute hunger worldwide stands to rise to about 265 million by the end of 2020, nearly double last year’s total.
The stark rise is largely due to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic, according to Arif Husain, WFP Chief Economist.
“[COVID-19] is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe,” said Husain. 
And as the crisis grows, relief efforts dwindle in some undeveloped countries. This year, lockdowns due to the COVID-19 virus will deprive about 250 million children in poverty-stricken countries of scheduled vitamin A supplements provided by humanitarian relief agencies. 
How are Food Banks & Donors Responding?
Like most other businesses and organizations, COVID has created new, unforeseen challenges for food banks. With so many people struggling, 4 in 5 food banks are serving more people than they did last year. Due to COVID-related safety protocols, some programs have moved, changed or paused operations. 
Fortunately, the crisis has caused the community to rally in response.
From March to October this year, food banks across the nation were able to distribute approximately 4.2 billion meals to people facing food insecurity. In October, they gave out about 50-percent more food than an average month. 
Those numbers have been buoyed by an influx of support from individual donors and charitable companies. As a nationwide leader in healthy, fully-prepared meals, Factor is pitching in. This year, Factor donated over 105,000 meals to food banks and pantries in the greater Chicago area.
But, despite the support, food banks and pantries are still in need of helping hands, as many regular volunteers fall into the high-risk category for COVID-19 and are unable to help.
How You Can Help Fight Food Insecurity this Holiday Season
Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways you can safely contribute your time and resources to help fight food insecurity. If you’re curious how you can help, here’s a list of ways you can give back this holiday season.
1. Volunteer at a Local Food Bank*
Food banks are where large amounts of food donations are stored and distributed. If you volunteer at a food bank, your volunteer time is more likely to be spent sorting, packing and moving boxes of food rather than handing it out. Food banks typically allow you to volunteer individually or with a group.
To volunteer at a food bank, follow this link to find a food bank near you.
2. Volunteer at a Food Pantry*
Food pantries are to food banks what grocery stores are to wholesale food distributors. In other words, they’re the storefront for distributing food donations. This year, food pantries consist of mobile delivery services, drive-thrus and contact-free distribution centers.
To volunteer at a food pantry, visit this link to find one in your area.
3. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen*
Soup kitchens, often called “community kitchens,” are physical locations where food-insecure people can pick up and eat a free meal on-site, similar to a cafeteria. They’re often funded and organized by organizations such as restaurants, local businesses and religious institutions.
Since community kitchens are locally operated, the easiest way to find one is by performing a quick Google search.
4. Start an Online Fundraiser
If you’re looking to make a difference but cannot help in person, you can easily create an online fundraiser to increase awareness and support the cause. Feeding America – the nation’s largest hunger-relief non-profit – offers a digital fundraising platform that makes it easy to host an online event. They even offer custom features, like donation incentives, live streaming options using YouTube or Twitch and the ability to earn badges when you hit milestones.
To learn more about online fundraisers through Feeding America, click here.
*Important Note: COVID-19 preventive protocols can vary from one volunteer center to the next. Be sure to visit the organization’s website or speak with a representative about their protocols before volunteering your time.