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Food Banks Shift Operations to Reduce Contact, See Surge in Demand

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Thursday, April 23, 2020   

FLORENCE, Ky. -- Demand for food is up by 40% statewide, as more families see their paychecks disappear and the economy dives into a recession.

And regional food banks are struggling to keep pace with demand.

Kurt Reiber is president and CEO of Freestore FoodBank in Cincinnati, which serves northern Kentucky. He says individual food item donations have dried up, so pantries are purchasing their own food.

He says his organization is buying five times more food than typically would be ordered in a three-week period -- around $3 million worth of groceries -- to distribute to pantries in northern Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

"We are the emergency relief system, and now that system is being tested," he states. "But what we're seeing is that more and more families are understanding that we can help them leverage their resources.

"At a recent food distribution we just did last week, 75% of the families were brand new. They had never been into any one of our food pantries."

Reiber adds that regional food banks are prepared to handle natural disasters, and are rolling our new methods to ensure families can put food on the table in the coming weeks.

Kentucky has more than 800 food banks statewide. Visit feedingkentucky.org/coronavirus for a map of local pantries.

Gov. Andy Beshear recently deployed the National Guard to aid food banks as pantry volunteers, most in their mid-60s, stay home.

Reiber says food banks also have shifted operations to minimize face-to-face interactions.

"Every food bank has gone to either boxed food items or bagged food items," he explains. "Families will either come by the food pantries in a drive-by fashion, and the food is loaded into their trunk, or they'll come to our pantries and receive a couple bags of groceries."

Reiber says the best way to help families in need is through financial donations to regional food banks, adding that every dollar provides seven meals.

Residents can donate to the food bank network at FeedingKy.org/donate.


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