We know that many families are taking a huge economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic, but images from the San Antonio Food Bank from last week illustrate that fact in a stark way.
On Thursday, more than 10,000 families showed up at various distribution centers around the city to receive some of the food distribution the food bank had planned. About 6,000 families had preregistered online, but nearly double that number showed up. One large distribution site—Traders Village, a flea market on the south side of the city—saw thousands of cars lining up at dawn, with one person having camped out the night before.
Due to the high demand, the distribution event ended four hours after its planned closing time, as thousands of people waited out the day in 90-plus degree heat.
"It was a rough one today," Food Bank president and CEO Eric Cooper told San Antonio Express-News. "We have never executed on as large of a demand as we are now."
Reporter Marina Starleaf Riker shared photos of the distribution on Twitter, and they were so shocking that many people didn't believe that they were real, despite the accompanying news report.
"We tried to qualify people on site," Cooper added. "There were a few folks who showed up that didn't qualify…but then there were those who showed up and said, 'I heard this was happening. I didn't know I had to register, but I need food. I am a hotel worker and I was laid off.' Those are the stories we heard from a lot of people who showed up."
Even the planned distribution was a feat of enormous magnitude. A troupe of 400 volunteers showed up to distribute a million pounds of food brought in on 25 tractor-trailers to the 6,000 families that had registered. But since thousands more showed up, the food bank turned to their warehouse to bring in even more truckloads of food.
10,000 seek S.A. Food Bank help as COVID-19 ravages economy www.expressnews.com
"There really wasn't much left over," Cooper said. "It was a bit of a miracle that we were able to get done what we got done."
Cooper is concerned about keeping up with the increased need. Due to rising demand and waning supply, Cooper worries the food bank will run out of food within three weeks. Grocery stores and restaurants usually donated surpluses or leftovers, which obviously isn't happening now that stores are running low and restaurants are shuttered.
10,000 families came to the San Antonio Food Bank as the coronavirus crisis www.youtube.com
To stem the tide, the food bank has submitted a State of Texas Assistance Request with the Department of Emergency Management, asking for $12 million to be able to purchase food.We are now at a level where we are having to buy food, and dollars are going very quickly," Cooper said. "The $12 million from the state will help us stock our shelves with peanut butter and soups and chili and stew and rice and beans and corn and green beans and all of those staple items families need in their pantry to nourish their family."
As the economic impact of the global attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus sinks in, we will undoubtedly be seeing a greater need for the assistance food banks offer. The dramatic footage from San Antonio can be seen as a wake-up call for other cities and for individuals to make sure that those who are able are donating what they can to help their communities get through this difficult period.
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