Food banks monitor national food supply chain amid dramatic increase in need during pandemic

Local News

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Food banks in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand say they’ve seen a huge increase in demand in the first month of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dramatically rising unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic means more people are going to food banks to feed their families.

“This is the first time ever that all food banks in the country are dealing with the same type of situation,” said Brenda Shaw, who’s the chief development officer of Lowcountry Food Bank.

Like supermarkets, some items have been very hard for food banks to keep in stock.

“We’re not seeing a lot of bulk canned vegetables and fruits,” Shaw said.

“People are buying meat,” said Nicole Echols, who’s the executive director for the Pee Dee branch of Harvest Hope Food Bank. “There’s nothing left over that they can’t sell to donate to us of course.”

The problem is not a food shortage, but a change in who is buying large amounts of food. Since bulk buyers like schools and restaurants aren’t getting nearly as much food, Feeding America and the American Farm Bureau Federation are pushing the federal government to help shift supplies towards food banks.

The two organizations wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), saying a voucher system would help prevent that food from being wasted. This comes as food warehouses close or reduce production because of workers sick with the coronavirus.

Harvest Hope Food Bank and Lowcountry Food Bank say they have about six weeks of food right now… And they’re monitoring the national food supply chain.

“We’re optimistic for the most part, but we just can’t predict what the next couple of months are going to look like,” Echols said.

Both food banks also say Feeding America can help local producers struggling to sell.

“We work with Feeding the Carolinas in procuring food with regional farmers,” Shaw said.

“If there is a farmer that is anywhere close to us that has produce, instead of throwing it away, we plead and beg, please donate it to a food bank,” said Echols.

News13 is partnering with Harvest Hope to raise money for feeding people during the pandemic. You can click here to donate to the News13 and Harvest Hope coronavirus relief fund.

You can click here if you’re in the Pee Dee and would like help from Harvest Hope. If you’re on the Grand Strand, you can click here to get help from Lowcountry Food Bank.

Feeding America has four food banks serving South Carolina, including Lowcountry and Harvest Hope. Seven of Feeding America’s banks serve North Carolina.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina is a Feeding America bank serving Robeson County, while Food Bank of Central & Northeastern North Carolina serves Scotland County.

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