Harvesters feeling strain as food banks see more demand during pandemic

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While fighting COVID-19, more and more people have faced unemployment and hunger. No doubt, the pandemic has put a strain on food banks across the country and in the Kansas City area.

Harvesters saw staggering numbers looking at the dollars and center spent over the last year. 

One year intro the pandemic, reports show Missouri food banks are spending 300% more to feed the hungry. Harvesters’ numbers are even higher at 650%. 

“We just needed more food to meet the need and so we’ve had to buy a lot of that food, rather than getting it all through donations,” Harvesters COO Steve Davis said. “We’ve still had a lot of donations, but not to the level that we’ve needed.”

Davis said agencies are seeing about 30%-40% more people visiting their 26 regional pantries for assistance. 

Over-all, they estimate 387,000 people are now food insecure. 

For those facing unemployment and hunger – getting canned food and diapers takes a weight off. 

“Since the pandemic has started, we’ve distributed about 75 million pounds of food. That’s about 15 million more pounds than we did the year prior to the pandemic,” Davis said. “So not only are we thrilled to be continuing the work that we’ve been doing, we’ve actually done a lot more service during the same period of time.”

Harvesters has been rolling out more food than ever to keep up with the demand during the pandemic.

Since March of last year, they’ve spent ab $9.6 million to buy food. This is a 650% increase in spending compared to the year prior, pre-pandemic, when they only spent about $1.2 million.

“Our community has really been the avenue that’s allowed us to buy that food,” Davis said. “So we’ve had amazing community support through financial donations so that we can have the money to buy the food.”

Davis said the best way to help is through monetary donations on Harvesters’ website. Otherwise, check out the list of most needed items. 

Looking ahead, they expect the need and the numbers to remain high for the next two years. 

“Right now we’re planning on this taking a couple years before we return back to what we saw prior to the pandemic,” Davis said.

On Wednesday, Harvesters is giving away free food and diapers to those in need. 

The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kansas City Zoo. 

Be aware – there is also a vaccination clinic happening there at the same time. We’re told those appointment are already full. 

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