While there has been a concerted effort to provide food banks the resources to feed more during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shortage of canned goods and nonperishable goods.
The Puyallup Food Bank’s need has increased more than threefold, CEO Jim Beaudoin said.
There were 4,706 households served last month, compared to May 2019’s 1,465, according to data provided by the Puyallup Food Bank.
Government has stepped in to help. Washington’s food networks have streamlined into three districts to quickly respond to a growing need. In Pierce County, Emergency Food Networks distributes food to more than 80 food programs. Pierce County Council approved a total of $1.25 million to staff and stock food banks.
With the additional help, there has been an increase in supply to meet the need. In May, the Puyallup Food Bank provided more than 240,000 more pounds of food than a year prior, the nonprofit’s data said.
Food banks have seen an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables with restaurants closed in recent weeks, Beaudoin said. The Puyallup Food Bank has been stuffing boxes with oranges, apples, potatoes and onions.
But getting canned vegetables, peanut butter, pasta and canned tomato products has been a challenge.
“It’s not out there to even buy,” Beaudoin said.
The normal wait time for food has doubled in some cases, Beaudoin said. Prices have also increased. Chicken is close to double in price, he said.
Beaudoin has turned to grocery stores like Safeway and Costco to ask for truckloads of peanut butter and soup.
Other hunger programs like Communities in Schools rely on the Puyallup Food Bank’s surplus to help children.
Jan Mauk, executive director of Communities in Schools of Puyallup, said the food bank has provided bags and boxes of excess food. It’s been hard to buy in bulk from grocery stores, where cases of water and nonperishable foods are limited, she said.
During the school year, the program provided weekend meals to 300 children.
“We’re thankful for their partnership,” Mauk said. “Our partners are rallying around and feel confident they can supply what we need for the summer.”
Beaudoin said he expects the need to increase as the pandemic continues and Washington feels the economic fallout more.
The Employment Security Department released data on Thursday, stating 1,168,129 people have filed for unemployment, or 16 percent of Washington’s population, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.