With COVID-19 and the global pandemic, the needs in our communities have risen to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
The speed and severity of the decline are unprecedented, creating tremendous need at a time when social distancing has made it even more challenging for organizations to respond.
While some non-profits have found creative ways to meet the challenge, there is still a large gap that must be filled given the tremendous need of those in our communities who have fallen through the cracks of government aid programs designed to help in the current crisis.
I have had numerous conversations with advisors and other industry leaders about the far-reaching impact of COVID-19. Challenging times often bring out the best in people and I have been encouraged by the efforts to help those in need as a result of this pandemic.
In my role as board chair of a local non-profit, I’ve also asked for input from CEOs of other charities to get their perspectives regarding the most important needs today, given their experience on the front lines during this pandemic.
Below is a summary of this input, and how you can make a difference in your local community.
1. Food Banks Need Volunteers (No Just Money)
This is really the “perfect storm” for your local food pantry. With so many people out of work, the need is exploding.
The St. Petersburg Free Clinic is a great example. We have three primary missions: food, health care and housing. The food program includes a Food Bank (we distributed over 11 million pounds of food last year), a Food Pantry — which we call We Help, along with Pack-A-Sack, which is a program that delivers food to kids at participating schools.
At our Food Pantry, we typically serve 200 families per day. Last Thursday, we served 745. During the first two weeks of April, more than 1000 new families visited our facility.
Most were comfortably employed and supporting their families just a few short weeks ago. Suddenly, they find themselves visiting a food pantry.
I’m reminded of why our core mission is to serve others with “compassion and respect,” for how we treat them has long standing implications for their sense of value and self-confidence. These are staggering statistics and highlight the tremendous need resulting from this pandemic.
Unfortunately, as the need is expanding there is another shift that has occurred that is impacting supply. A significant portion (about 25% in our case) of the supply for Food Banks comes from the “excess” food from grocery stores.
If you’ve been grocery shopping during the past few weeks, you’ve likely noticed the “food hoarding” that has emptied shelves at stores across the country. (It’s also why consumer staples are performing so well, but that’s another story).
This has been devastating for food banks, as this supply evaporated overnight. As a result, many food banks are now purchasing food, resulting in a significant increase in costs to meet the expanded needs in our communities.
In addition, Food Banks, like most non-profits, rely heavily on retirees as volunteers. While we all know this intuitively, we were still a bit surprised to find that 83% of our volunteers are over age 65.