Two years of COVID, multiple lockdowns, and several variants later…

…it seems like life has simultaneously moved on quickly and remained halted entirely. Talk of a “new normal” has become a reality for most Americans, with life slowly and unsurely returning to the “before”.

Sporting events, music concerts, in-person schooling and conferences, and mask-free escapades have resumed with a slight edge of unwavering uncertainty, unsure when the next variant will make itself known. Since those fateful first few months of 2020, there have been more than 79 million cases of COVID in the United States, over 950,000 deaths from the virus, and a handful of new variants.

With March 11, 2020, being the unofficial start of the pandemic, trademarked with the NBA season unexpectedly shutting down, March Madness being canceled, and Tom Hanks announcement of testing positive, this time of year marks a necessary reflection on the unpredictability of life and the impacts that come with it.


How COVID Has Affected Hunger

In the first several months of COVID shutting down the world, over 6 million Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps. Since 2020, nearly 8 million people fell below the poverty line, and nearly 30 million households were food insecure, creating an almost 50% increase in food insecurity.

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Now, things have gotten slightly better, but not much. Around 20 million households report not having enough food to eat and over 10 million households report being behind on rent. Tens of millions of people lost their employment when COVID struck, and over 6 million people remain unemployed, falling from a nearly 15% rate of unemployment at its peak to a 3.8% rate of unemployment - compared to a pre-COVID unemployment rate of 3.5%.

Although the employment rate seems to be dropping, the hunger crisis only seems to be getting worse. COVID impacted more than America’s health systems - it also impacted the economy. As COVID continues, so does inflation. Combined with the over 37 million people living in poverty, the food insecure communities in America remain vulnerable. 

The impacts of the pandemic have especially affected women, minorities, and children.

Studies show that the BIPOC households are 2 times more likely to report food insecurity than white households. 17% of Black adults and 16% of Latino adults reported food insecurity throughout the pandemic, compared to 6 percent of white adults. 19% of adults who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander were more than three times as likely than white adults to report that their household did not get enough to eat.

In a survey taken in the Fall of 2021, approximately 20 million adults (9% of adults) reported that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days. For households with children, that number increases to a 12% rate of food insecurity, with 7-13% of adults saying their children didn’t have enough to eat because they couldn’t afford it.


How COVID Has Affected Food Banks

Because of COVID, many people who hadn’t necessarily experienced food insecurity before were now having to turn to food banks and pantries to ensure their households are fed. In 2020, food banks saw about a 50% increase in people seeking help.

That percentage comes out to around 60 million Americans (nearly 1 in 5 people) who had to turn to food banks, food pantries, and other food assistance programs because of the negative implications of the pandemic. Feeding America reports that their network of food banks distributed more than 6 billion meals in 2020 - an increase of 40% compared to prior years.

Although the demand for food has dropped in 2022, the needs are still well above pre-pandemic levels - and food banks and pantries are struggling. According to Feeding America, the amount of food currently being distributed by their partner food banks remains about 55% above pre-pandemic levels.

Alongside the increased demand from food insecure individuals, food banks are also facing another issue - a rise in food prices, supply chain issues, and labor shortages. In order to combat these problems, food banks are being forced to offer smaller servings and offer substitutions for pantry staples like peanut butter.

For example, the Alameda County Community Food Bank in the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a price increase of $60,000 per month on food to meet the demand of the food insecure communities. Pre-pandemic, the food bank spent about $250,000 per month for 2.5 million pounds of food. Now, they are shelling out 1 million dollars per month for 4.5 million pounds.

“What happens when food prices go up is food insecurity for those who are experiencing it just gets worse,” said Katie Fitzgerald, Chief Operating Officer of Feeding America.


How Move For Hunger Has Adapted to COVID

When the pandemic hit, Move For Hunger was acutely aware of the impact this would have on food insecure communities, but no one could have predicted the severity of the impact. 2020 was a year of survival for everyone, and Move For Hunger was able to provide more than 5.3 million pounds of food, equalling 4.4 million meals, to those in need.

Looking forward from 2020 into 2021, the Move For Hunger team knew it was essential to continue making a big impact. Over the past two years, Move For Hunger collected and delivered nearly 10  million pounds of food, providing over 8 million meals to food insecure communities across the United States.

“If 2020 was a year of survival, 2021 was a year of rebuilding,” said Adam Lowy, Founder and Executive Director of Move For Hunger. “We restructured our team, and I am proud to say we are now firing on all cylinders!  We launched a fresh food recovery program, we grew our educational content and workshops, our Multifamily Program nearly tripled in size, we created more virtual team building opportunities, and we also looked inward, participating in our first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training as an organization.

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Move For Hunger recognized the importance of restructuring how food was collected and distributed, as well as the need to restructure internally so we could continue to grow with our mission in mind. As a result, the Move For Hunger team went fully remote and expanded with new team members spread across the United States. We now have team members located in New Jersey, New York, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, and Ohio!

Move For Hunger also created Front Porch Food Drives. Front Porch Food Drives were born out of necessity in 2020 in order to give the community a way to give back while maintaining social distancing. This contactless food drive opportunity allows small groups to get together and distribute paper collection bags in their local neighborhoods. The volunteers then return to those houses a few days later to collect food left by the homeowners on their front porch. 

Over the past two years, there have been nearly 200 Front Porch Food Drives across the United States that collected nearly 200,000 pounds of food, which provided over 160,000 meals. The biggest Front Porch Food Drive hosted in 2021 was by Dermer’s Dreams Community Food Drive, which collected over 16,000 lbs. Dermer’s Dreams also hosted the biggest Front Porch Food Drive in 2020, collecting almost 60,000 lbs of food!

Virtual events remained prominent throughout 2021, with a slow (but highly anticipated) return to in-person conferences, races, and tradeshows. Many individuals continued to “move” for hunger with our Move 2 Fight Hunger Challenge, and a few new organizations signed up for the initiative!


Gexpro was one of those organizations that joined Move For Hunger in the Move 2 Fight Hunger Challenge, encouraging their employees to participate in the virtual competition by getting out and getting active. In total, they had 41 employees sign up and completed more than 2,400 miles moved! This raised over 16,000 meals to those in need.

“Food insecurity is a cause we are passionate about as a business, especially considering the impact COVID-19 closures had on countless Americans’ access to food,” said Laura McConnell, Global HR Director for Gexpro.

Looking Forward

With most of the necessary adjustments underway to adapt to life amidst COVID, Move For Hunger is looking forward to in-person events, tradeshows, conferences, and our entire team being together for the first time in a year this Spring!

“The need has never been greater, and we are working harder than ever to deliver more food to those who need it most,” said Lowy. 

Move For Hunger’s team and partners will continue to do their part to lessen the effects of food insecurity in America. Anyone can get involved in our mission by donating or hosting their own fundraiser or food drive