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NEW YORK: American families slammed by the coronavirus pandemic are turning more and more to food banks to get by, waiting hours for donations in lines of cars stretching as far as the eye can see.


And with 22 million people out of work seemingly overnight as business after business closes under the Great Lockdown, these charities feeding hungry and scared people fear the day will come when they cannot cope with the tsunami of demand.


On Tuesday (Apr 14), for instance, some 1,000 cars lined up at a distribution center set up in Pennsylvania by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Demand for its bags of food soared nearly 40 percent in March.


At eight centers like that one, some 227 tonnes of food were placed in the trunks of cars of families suddenly unable to put meals on the table, said the organization''s vice president Brian Gulish.


"A lot of people are utilizing our service for the first time. They''ve never turned to a food bank before," said Gulish. So they do not know there is a network of 350 distribution points in southwest Pennsylvania.


"That''s why those lines are so long. Because they don''t know that network that we have," Gulish added.


"I find a lady yesterday with a 15-day-old baby, a newborn. The husband is not working, she has two more kids. She was having no food in her house," said Alana.


Everywhere, food bank officials say their needs in the pandemic era have skyrocketed all of a sudden - by 30 percent, for example, at a network in Akron, Ohio.


"We built a supply chain over the years that would serve a certain anticipated need for food. Ramping that up 30 percent overnight is nearly impossible," said Dan Flowers, CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.

“我们多年来建立了一个供应链,能够满足某种预期的食品需求。”阿克伦州地区美食银行首席执行官丹·弗劳尔斯(Dan Flowers)表示:“但一夜之间将这一比例提高30%几乎是不可能的。”。

In part this is because the food banks are caught up in the maelstrom that has hit the US food industry.


With restaurants closed because of the lockdown, Americans are stocking up on everything in grocery stores, which no longer can make as many product donations as they usually do. Ditto for restaurants that often donate surplus food to homeless shelters.


Fortunately, the US food industry is in fact making donations.


Food banks including 200 local branches of an organization called Feeding America are even getting special kinds of loads to hand out.


US food giant JM Smucker, maker of many well-known products such as Folgers coffee, is a regular donor and has sent extra pallets of food to banks in Ohio. And a distillery called Ugly Dog in Michigan dispatched a truckload of hand sanitizing gel made from residual alcohol and packed in pint bottles that normally hold booze, said Flowers.

美国食品巨头JM Smucker是Folgers咖啡等许多知名产品的生产商,他是以为稳定的捐赠者,并且已经向俄亥俄州的食物银行发送了额外的食品。弗劳尔斯说,密歇根州一家名为“丑陋的狗”的酒厂运送了一卡车洗手液,这种凝胶是用残留的酒精制成的,装在通常能盛放酒的品脱瓶子里。

"Worn out"


Cash donations are also coming in, ranging from anonymous people to the likes of Jeff Bezos, the world''s richest person, who donated US$100 million to Feeding America.

现金捐赠也在不断增加,从匿名人士到全球首富杰夫·贝佐斯(Jeff Bezos)等,后者为喂养美国人提供了1亿美元。

"If it wasn''t for that, these food banks would not be able to meet this demand," said Flowers.


The Food Bank For New York City, a major one in the Big Apple, is ordering higher volume than it normally does, said Zanita Tisdale, its director of member engagement.


The relief plan passed by Congress includes US$850 million for food banks and Flowers says he expects that cash to start flowing in June.


"I think we''ll get back on track then. I''m mostly concerned about the next six to eight weeks," said Flowers.