Impact of COVID-19 Still Hitting Alabama Hard
Montgomery Area Food Bank
"Feeding Hope Across Alabama"
521 Trade Center Street | Montgomery AL 36108 | 334-263-3784
One out of five of us deal with Food Insecurity, which means four out of five of us could help!
MAFB is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and an equal opportunity employer and provider.
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News coverage often takes a national story and finds a local tie to relevant elements to make that story more accessible. However, when reporting on the impact of a global pandemic, news elements are already localized…by definition.
Whether you call it COVID-019 or the coronavirus, the resulting fallout of the immediate measures necessary to combat the virus’ spread into the current worldwide pandemic have been far reaching and life changing.
What was initially reported as a virus in China, steadily morphed into a global pandemic. Our social reactions have gone from “it’s not an issue here,” to stay at home orders, and using acronyms like PPE to debating the efficacy of something as routine as wearing a mask.
As a result, we’ve all dealt with the public health impact initially on our nation’s healthcare system, followed quickly by the economic impact resulting from physical distancing and a spike in unemployment.
With more than 400,000 new unemployment filings during a six-week period between late-March and mid-May, the most profound impact on the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB) has been more food insecure Alabamians to assist – many more.
While disaster relief has long been a part of the MAFB mission, the complexities of maintaining and even expanding the distribution of assistance operations during a pandemic resulted in myriad of changes ranging from “contactless” agency distribution conducted outside our buildings; to the sanitation of our entire campus (four buildings, 10 vehicles when six staff members were infected by the virus.
MAFB remains actively involved with Emergency Management Agency planning and support, but disaster relief in the past featured elements of “All Clear” declarations, identified recovery goals and being able to confidently work within an environment which was declared safe.
When COVID-19 began to gain national impact, people began to shelter in place, the natural reaction was to store supplies. This created a sudden challenge of the supply chains of the nation’s retail grocery stores – many of which routinely commit to providing support to MAFB. The struggle to maintain supplies available within their stores, translates to us filling in the shortages created by purchasing more and more of the assistance. Recently we’ve seen an influx of USDA program provided resources.
Nevertheless, our increased operational costs have not been passed along. Those in need are never charged when receiving assistance. And, our partner agencies have not been asked to share any of the spiked cost burden. You may well ask how that is possible. After all, we’re a nonprofit!
To truly understand the answer, you need only understand that food banking is arguably the purest form of “Community Building,” supported by philanthropy and individuals taking action. Another blessing which has served us well, has been the consistent compassion and heart displayed by so many of you who dig deep down within yourselves to not only ask “How can I help,” but follow through, step up and provide resources – the most valuable of which being their time.
Alas, the aspect of volunteering your time at MAFB, has been curtailed in deference to an abundance of caution. Much like food and fund drives, volunteering in close quarters is simply not conducive to maintaining CDC guidelines. Nevertheless, support has not waned. We have encouraged volunteers to support local community agencies, which routinely have older, more susceptible volunteers.
And then there are our retail grocery partners, local corporate supporters, communities and individuals who have found ways to step up – often unsolicited – to offset our skyrocketing costs. As a member of Feeding America network, corporate support provides a boost to our economies of scale throughout our 199-member food bank network. However, much of the most personable and gratifying support has been generated locally. From local businesses and leaders who prefer anonymity to individuals who share whatever they’re able, your support not only offsets costs, but inspires and reenergizes all of us...thank you.
One constant, which has served us well, has been our “business model” of being a force multiplier for our network of Partner Distribution Organizations, or smaller food banks, in Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Dothan and Selma and the resulting extended reach in support of food pantries, kitchens and local partner agencies. With a service area of 35 counties and a staff of less than 35 – our network structure has never been more important.
Looking forward, we will maintain our commitment to “Feeding Hope Across Alabama.” That being said; looking through the data provided by Feeding America®, now that our state’s unemployment is beginning to wane, we can expect to maintain an estimated 5% increase in food insecurity throughout Alabama. That translates to almost 110-thousand additional neighbors in need with more than 251,000 of that total being children.