CLEVELAND — Although the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit the 30,000 point mark this week for the first time in history, it doesn't tell the whole story of an economy still stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Case in point: demand for the services of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank continues to ascend at unprecedented levels, amounting to a new record of families served at the food bank's meal distribution last week.
Kristin Warzocha, the CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, said there has been a skyrocketing need for emergency food services in Northeast Ohio since the pandemic started. This fiscal year, the food bank has served more than 400,000 local families, which is more than 100,000 additional families over last year.
"One in four Northeast Ohioans have been served by the food bank or one of our partner agencies over the last year," Warzocha said. "The need is growing. That's a real concern."
It is a staggering juxtaposition with the rising confidence on Wall Street. Buoyed by several waves of positive news on the COVID-19 vaccine front and a signal by President Trump that he will transfer power to President-elect Biden in the coming weeks, investors and traders have a bullish view of the future. However, what the Dow record set this week doesn't show is the pain still being felt on Main Streets nationwide.
"For folks operating in the short term that can't make a rent payment, can't make a car payment, or can't put food on the table, it is still really really painful," said Michael Goldberg, an associate professor of design and innovation at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. "There are so many small businesses that are out there that are not publicly traded: the restaurant owner, the local chain owner. They are not reflected in the market indices. You can see economic pain on the local level."
Although leaders on Capitol Hill have expressed a desire in assembling and passing a second stimulus package, Democrats and Republicans have yet to agree on the final size and scope of such a relief package. Goldberg said a second stimulus package is sorely needed by local economies in order to bridge the gap between now and widespread vaccinations.
"Without a second stimulus and some relief for workers, I think it's going to be really really hard to make it through this period," Goldberg said. "There is this dichotomy of folks in long lines at food banks and folks going back on unemployment with enthusiasm with the markets."
Regardless of what the future holds, Warzocha said the GCFB will be there to help.
"We saw the need for food rise more quickly than we have ever seen in our 40-year history," Warzocha said.
To help the food bank provide meals to area families, Warzocha encourages residents to donate their time or money. Donations can be made online through the food bank's website.
People needing assistance are encouraged to call the food bank's help center at 216-738-2067.