NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does the need throughout Middle Tennessee. Food banks say it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before and they expect it could get worse.
“We didn’t close during the pandemic ’cause we are so close to also the tornado, so we’ve had a lot of people come in that were affected by both or one or the other,” Judy Wahlstrom, the director and board president of East Nashville Cooperative Ministry told News 2.
Beginning in March, food pantry’s like Wahlstrom’s were serving upwards of 40 families a day—numbers and lives they saw improve after the government issued stimulus checks,
but with those checks now running out and the extra $600 dollars a week in Tennessee unemployment set to end in less than two weeks, they fear the need will only grow.
“I think we’ll see increase because the maximum unemployment in Tennessee is $275 a week, right now it’s $875 a week. Plus, food stamps increased some too, with the EFB for food for kids that are in school,” explained Wahlstrom.
The East Nashville Cooperative Ministry is just one of several satellite food banks for Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee.
“A typical Second Harvest week, when you think about food that would go out the door, our warehouse workers, our 19 trucks on the road would usually take out anywhere from, it’s in the mid 640/650 to 670 pounds a week, we’re over a million pounds a week now,” explained Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee’s President Nancy Keil.
The Martha O’Bryan Center in Nashville tells News 2 they’ve been the organization’s busiest food pantry and they expect August and September to be even busier.
Second Harvest even lifted the restrictions on food boxes, allowing people to come more than 3 times a month.
“I had one guy that came in yesterday that this was his ninth box since March,” said Wahlstrom.
And the need isn’t just food. Wahlstrom says they need diapers, particularly larger size diapers, formula, clothing, volunteers and always money.
“We are so reliant on our volunteers,” said Keil, “With an increase need, it’s not like it’s going to end next week or next month, there is a need for people to have access to food and that’s what we’re here to do.”
To donate or volunteer with Second Harvest, visit their website here.