BRAFB predicts spike in need if COVID-19 unemployment relief ends

BRAFB predicts spike in need if COVID-19 unemployment relief ends
Inside the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB) is giving away more food than ever before, with almost $2 million spent on food in the month of June. Now, as the current stimulus initiative is drawing to a close, food bank representatives say the need will sky-rocket and they don’t now if they’ll be ready for it.

“If we see another 25, 50 or even 100% in services, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” BRAFB CEO Michael McKee said.

According to the food bank, more than 136,000 people have filed for unemployment insurance in the Blue Ridge-area since March, with many those same people using the food bank for additional assistance.

“Unemployment today is higher than it was 10 years ago, and if that’s the case, and we’re serving so many more people, if the federal supplement, unemployment insurance is removed, we could very well be overwhelmed. Not just our food bank, but food banks around the country because we’re all serving so many more people than ever before, in our histories,” McKee said.

In June, more than 21% of all people who had to lean on the food bank’s pantries were first-time users.

The uncertainty doesn’t stop there: Getting food from distributors is a hardship of its own, with deliveries often delayed coupled with fewer donations from grocers.

“We’ve spent about $2.7 million buying food to replace what typically is donated by grocery stores and manufacturers. We’re seeing trucks show up at the food bank with half as much food as we’ve ordered, simply because they too have experienced disruptions in their supply chains,” McKee said.

Although the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank says it has enough in inventory for now, the future is uncertain.

“I don’t know how our network is possibly going to serve twice as many people as we’re serving today,” McKee said. “That’s how critical the supplement to unemployment insurance really is. If that’s discontinued, I’m concerned food banks are going to be in a lot of trouble.”

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