Food pantries, volunteers brace for a 'tidal wave' of need during COVID-19 pandemic

Care for Real food pantry in Edgewater is on the front-line in the mounting fight against hunger.

RELATED: Illinois TV, radio stations unite in statewide fundraising drive to combat hunger, food bank shortages amid COVID-19 pandemic

"Cuts in income, cuts in hours, cuts in resources, this place is dependable," said Elizabeth Taylor, a Care for Real client.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is one place in the city that is still buzzing with activity.

It is a hub that helps supply a network of more than 700 food pantries and shelters in Chicago. With eight times the typical number of people filing for unemployment last week, Jim Conwell with the Greater Chicago Food Depository knows it is going to stress the system.

"We were already serving hundreds of thousands of people a year and we're about to see a tidal wave of need like we've never seen before," he said.

Another key concern is keeping donations coming in because runs on grocery stores have begun to disrupt food bank's supply chains.

"Right now, we are purchasing more food which shows why we need financial support," Conwell said.

It's much the same scene in Geneva at the Northern Illinois Food Bank that typically helps half a million people each year. They are already seeing more immediate needs.

"We have seen the need increase by over 50%," said Julie Yurko with the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

"We know that in tough times, we are needed even more," said Heather Kash, the director of Neighborhood Food Pantries.

Pallets of COVID-19 emergency food kits are at the ready at this massive food bank and volunteers are still streaming in. Danny Flores recruited 17 people from his congregation.

"We should come together, not just in moments like this but all the time," Flores said.

"Together, we know that we can make things better during this crisis and we can solve hunger across Northern Illinois," Yurko said.

The best thing you can do is make a donation, Cornwell said.

Illinois Broadcasters, both in TV and radio, are coming together to make sure no family goes hungry as part of the Uniting Against Hunger initiative.

Illinois broadcasters, in partnership with Feeding Illinois and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, encourage their viewers and listeners to contribute monetary donations that will go a long way to bolster dwindling food supplies at area food banks. Corporations and individuals looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of neighbors experiencing food hardship can contribute at feedingIllinois.org/unite or by texting FEEDIL to 91999.
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