How to Help Food Banks Near Me: Feeding America Advice on Donating, Fundraising, and Volunteering

Food banks across the U.S. are facing shortages as supply chains are disrupted due to the coronavirus. But as more than 26 million Americans submit unemployment applications, the demand for food banks has soared.

Feeding America reported that 18 million children could face food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic, exceeding the highest ever total reported by the USDA of 17.2 million children during the Great Recession in 2009.

But food banks nationwide are struggling to meet the demand as panic-buying is causing grocery stores to run low on staples that were previously donated frequently, reported by Reuters.

Food banks do not have the storage capacity or labor to store or process bulk donations, so farmers are left to destroy surplus stock.

Additionally, U.S. Agriculture Department regulations are restricting restaurants from redirecting their food to charities due to strict specifications on products that can be donated to food banks.

These factors, combined with an increase in demand, mean that food banks across the U.S. are struggling to supply food to those who rely on them.

How to Help Food Banks

There are various ways you can help food banks during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Donating
  • Volunteering
  • Fundraising
  • Staying informed
Food Bank Volunteer
Salisbury food bank volunteer sorts a donation of food at the food bank centre and cafe on February 11, 2010 in Salisbury, England. Matt Cardy/Getty

Donate to a food bank charity

Help food banks nationwide by setting up a monthly donation to Feeding America, and your first donation will be doubled. Alternatively, you can donate directly to your local food bank or food charity.

Interim Executive Director of the Food Bank of Central New York, Karen Belcher, said: "Food Banks have seen a change in how they are distributing products to those who are finding themselves facing hunger under these circumstances. Monetary donations and large food donations are the best ways to support our work during this time."

Stay informed about hunger in America

Sign up for email alerts from local food banks and follow food charities on social media to stay up to date and find out how you can help.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the single largest program aimed at curbing hunger in America, and you can ask your Member of Congress to protect SNAP from government cuts.

Volunteer your time

If you have spare time, you can pledge to volunteer at your local food bank. According to Feeding America, 51 percent of food programs rely entirely on volunteers, who are needed for sorting and packing, assisting at mobile pantries and no-contact distributions, delivering meals, and spreading awareness online.

Check with your local food bank if they need volunteers before turning up and stay away if you feel sick. When volunteering, be sure to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) safety guidelines and practice social distancing.

Tara A. Ellis, president and CEO of FeedMore WNY, said: "Community members can best support their local food banks by reaching out to them directly to see if they are in most need of donations of food, funds, volunteers or other forms of support. Oftentimes, they may be in critical need of all of the above."

Start a fundraising campaign

If you have an idea for a fundraising campaign that you can do at home or while practicing social distancing guidelines, you can set up a fundraising page on the Feeding America website or on a Facebook nonprofit page. Alternatively, you could host a charity streaming event where you play games, cook, perform, or any other idea you have to raise money.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC.
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.