Feeding America recently released data revealing the number of people seeking assistance from food banks has increased by 50%.
Feeding America is the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization within the charitable food sector, consisting of a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs providing food assistance to all 50 states, including DC and Puerto Rico.
“Last year, the hunger crisis that emerged from the pandemic impacted every community across the country,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “Every food bank in the nationwide Feeding America network responded to the crisis.”
The United States Department of Agriculture most recently released data revealing a widening gap in levels of food insecurity between white households and households of color.
Additionally, Feeding America estimates at least 60 million people turned to food banks and pantries along with other private food assistance programs amid the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While rising to the hurdle, food banks have faced delivery challenges in pursuing their efforts to serve the increased need.
Earlier this month, the Darden Restaurants and Darden Foundation continuing their 10-year partnership with Feeding America, helping add a fleet of refrigerated trucks to support mobile pantry programs and food distribution in communities with the highest needs including the Food Bank of North Alabama.
The new fleet features 26-foot vehicles capable of transporting 12,000 pounds of food at a time.
The Food Bank of North Alabama, based in Huntsville, works to end hunger by offering hunger relief programs that immediately feed people in need. It also addresses hunger’s root causes through local food initiatives that foster entrepreneurship and healthy food access.
As an active entity in DeKalb County, the Food Bank of North Alabama has partnered with DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and DeKalb County Council on Aging at various times, distributing thousands of food boxes to those in need.
Distribution locations this year included the DeKalb County VFW Fairgrounds and Deer Ridge Apartments in Fort Payne, a senior residence, among others.
Through a $2 million grant from the Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation and support from partners, Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, each food bank will also receive $26,000 to use for food and other needs.
“Feeding people is what we do, but the hard reality is that there are still too many families in communities we serve who struggle to put a meal on the table,” said Gene Lee, Chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants. “We’re uniquely positioned to help and by leveraging our scale and relationships with partners like Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, we’re proud to do our part to help get food into the hands of people who need it.”
Food banks receiving this gift in Alabama include Food Bank of North Alabama, Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham and Feeding the Gulf Coast in Theodore, Alabama.
“Millions of families continue to face impossible decisions, like choosing to put food on the table to pay their rent,” said Babineaux-Fontenot.
These efforts go hand-in-hand with Darden’s Harvest program. Every Darden restaurant collects surplus, wholesome food that's not served to guests and prepares it for donations to local nonprofit partners.
The Darden restaurants include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Season 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddies V’s,
Lee said since its inception, more than 127 million pounds of food, totaling more than 106 million meals have been donated through the Harvest program.