Food banks and pantries continue to see increased need due to the COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Food banks are continuing to report increased need as the pandemic persists.

"In our service area, there's been about a 38% increase in food insecurity among adults and then about 45% with children. So our agencies along those lines are seeing about a 40% increase across the board. Some of them are seeing higher," said Jennifer Caslin, the marketing and project manager for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Prior to the pandemic, Caslin said there were about 600,000 people who were food insecure in the 34-county region they worked with.

"It isn't just the pandemic. There are people that are right on the border line of needing this assistance prior to the pandemic. And the pandemic has just really amplified that for everyone to see," Caslin said.

Caslin said they typically see an increase in donations around the holidays, a trend they hope continues in light of increased need.

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Pat Haggard, executive director of Holly Springs Food Cupboard, echoed those sentiments.

"You see folks that used to be our donors coming through needing food assistance," said Haggard.

They have set up a tent outside for distribution to protect volunteers and clients, though they may have to adjust once temperatures drop.

"It's a challenge. We're also doing deliveries for seniors that have health issues and shouldn't be out or don't have transportation. And we've seen those increase a lot," said Haggard.

So far, Haggard noted they saw a 300% increase in "track-bags" for children who are learning from home. The pantry is trying to plan for an uncertain future, adding they've relied on consistent monetary donations to offset decreased food drives.

"We definitely have to be cognizant of the fact that we're going to be in this mode at least probably through the summer of next year," said Haggard.

Specific items of need include canned goods, fresh produce, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and diapers.

"People don't want their friends and neighbors to go hungry. Everybody should be able to eat," said Haggard.

Along with the Raleigh Christmas Parade Celebration, the ABC 11 Together Food Drive kicks off on November 21st at 10 AM. ABC 11 is partnering with Food Lion and US Foods to benefit The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina. This year, our goal is raise 1.5 million meals to feed hungry North Carolinians.
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