KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many Kansas City families found themselves needing help getting food for the first time since COVID-19 hit, and organizations like Harvesters have stepped up outreach efforts to help those facing “food insecurity.”
Food insecurity, according to Harvesters, is when someone doesn’t know if they will have enough food from day-to-day or for everyone in a household.
Harvesters said its partner agencies have seen as much as a 40% increase in need since the beginning of the pandemic in the region. Many people who already were struggling now have additional financial strain due to an increase in unemployment.
"I never would have imagined in a million years that I would not be working right now," Amy Fretz said.
The nurse turned to Harvesters for help feeding her family this summer.
"We're grateful we did," she said.
She was thankful to get fresh fruit for her 8-year-old son who has autism.
"He is really picky about what he eats, and so his ability to eat a lot of foods really declined," Fretz said. "The fresh fruit is something that he really loves and financially that's been hard for us to provide as a family, which is hard for us as parents to admit that."
Kelvin Vasquez visited a Harvesters food distribution event in May when he and his family suddenly found themselves not working.
"My mom told me to go because we had nothing to eat that day," he said. "We've never been through that, honestly."
Since then, he and his family are working more, and now they have started donating to Harvesters to repay the blessing of food they received a few months ago.
"It feels good to donate," he said.
Before the pandemic, Harvesters estimated that one in eight people, or 303,820 ,were food insecure in the Kansas City metro.
Children are among the most vulnerable, and Harvesters estimates 93,090 children were food insecure.
Based on projections from Feeding America, Harvesters said 433,470 people in its service area could be food insecure in 2020 due to COVID-19.
This equates to a roughly 42% increase in people who aren’t sure where they’ll get their next meal from.
Harvesters also estimated that 147,790 children – a roughly 59% increase – would face food insecurity during the pandemic.
Harvesters tracks its food distribution based on how many meals and pounds of food it distributes in the 26 counties it serves.
There was a significant increase in both categories when comparing the past two years:
- 2019 fiscal year: Harvesters distributed 48 million meals and nearly 54 million pounds of food to families in need.
- 2020 fiscal year: Harvesters distributed roughly 57.5 million meals and nearly 66 million pounds of food to families in need.
To help 41 Action News with its Fill the Fridge food drive – a partnership with Harvesters and local Price Chopper locations – visit the official website.
Since 2012, 41 Action News has hosted the Fill the Fridge to benefit Harvesters Community Food Network. Donations can be made online between Sept. 8 and 12, as well as at various locations throughout the Kansas City metro.