Two people wearing masks stand with a cart of food.

Feeding America: “Everybody has a role to play in ending hunger”

21 December 2020

More than 38 million people lived in households facing hunger in 2020. We hear how non-profit Feeding America is helping food banks and pantries across the US – like the Interfaith Food Pantry Network – to provide food to people in need, with support from Barclays’ £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package.

“There was an immediate spike in need. We normally add about 600 new families per year. In 2020, the number of new families doubled to about 1,200.”

Sandra Benedict, Director of Development at the Interfaith Food Pantry Network, is recalling the early days of the pandemic. The pantry in Morris County, New Jersey, faced a dual challenge: not only was the demand for its services rising significantly, but the volunteers it relied on were being told to stay at home for safety reasons.

“Everything had gone topsy turvy,” she says. “We needed to respond quickly. That’s when donations like the one given by Barclays are so important. We really appreciate community support and food drives, but when we have to respond fast, the ability to access cash is vital.”

The support Benedict is talking about came as part of Barclays' £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, which was launched in 2020 to help people around the world who have been hardest hit by the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Barclays directly supports the US non-profit Feeding America, which in turn offers grants to 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programmes nationwide, including the Interfaith Food Pantry Network. With the bank’s help, Feeding America will help provide more than 22 million meals to people in need over the course of two years.

For Interfaith, support also comes from Barclays volunteers based at the bank’s nearby Whippany campus, who have offered a helping hand with the food distribution charity’s on-the-ground efforts. Lindsay Friedman and Pranay Tyagi, two colleague volunteers, describe Interfaith as a welcoming, inspiring space: “When we went to help, we met a gentleman who previously worked at a bank,” Friedman says. “That put everything into perspective for all of us and showed us you never know what tomorrow will bring. It was really eye-opening.”

Beneficiaries collect food at the Interfaith Food Pantry Network.

Interfaith is one of 60,000 food pantries supported by Feeding America.

When the pandemic hit, we saw a surge of people who needed help. It was a crisis moment.

Lauren Biedron

Vice President, Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America

Feeding America beneficiaries hold bags of food in a parking lot, smiling for a photo.

Along with providing food to those in need, Feeding America aims to “engage our nation in the fight to end hunger”, says Biedron.

Rising to the COVID-19 challenge

Interfaith had to change its way of working fast. Out went its Client Choice Programme, which saw volunteers take clients around a specially designed store with a shopping cart to pick what they wanted – and in came a system of packing bags and then delivering them to the parking lot for individuals to collect.

While Client Choice has now returned to a modified version of the programme, Benedict says its absence during the pandemic was “so disappointing, because that’s how we were founded”. She explains that the non-profit adapted to restrictions by working to put some of its extra services online, including cooking lessons on how to prepare nutritious food.

She feels that they have learned important lessons, including how to strengthen supply chains to store perishable food – and she doesn’t believe the spike in demand is going away anytime soon. Following a stretch of increased need corresponding with a decrease in donations, Benedict says: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

A crisis moment

“Feeding America’s mission is twofold – to provide food to people who face hunger through our nationwide network of food banks and to engage our nation in the fight to end hunger,” says Lauren Biedron, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America.

The organisation’s resources were stretched when COVID-19 began to impact the US, however, and Feeding America points to growing disparities between people of different racial backgrounds – with Black and Latino communities impacted most by limited access to food resources.

“It was a triple whammy of circumstances,” says Biedron. “Schools closed and unemployment rose, which saw a surge of people who needed help. Food donations dramatically declined because consumers were buying more and stocking up. It was a crisis moment.”

A gift in time

Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package has enabled the individual food banks that Feeding America works with to use the money flexibly, Biedron explains. While many food banks used the donation to buy food, others used it to source temporary labour or to move food to where it was needed most.

“The reason the support was so important was that, in addition to coming at a critical time and helping us to step up during our hour of need, we had the ability to give food banks on the ground opportunities to do what was best for their communities.”

Biedron believes that partnerships with organisations like Barclays are the key to achieving the non-profit’s vision, which is to do itself out of a job.

“We strongly believe that everybody has a role to play in ending hunger. The issue is simply too big for Feeding America or any other non-profit to go it alone. We are working every day to try to make it easier for people to find food when they need it and get it in a safe way.”

Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package

Barclays has established a £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package to support communities impacted by the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic. It consists of two components: charitable donations to non-profit partners working in the communities where Barclays operates; and a commitment to match personal colleague donations to their chosen non-profits who are helping COVID-19 relief efforts in their communities.

Find out more about Barclays’ COVID-19 Community Aid Package.