CLEVELAND — As vaccinations increase and people head back to work, it seems we’re starting to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But many families are still struggling to make ends meet with hundreds still sitting in line at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s weekly distributions.
Tuesday, the food bank got some help from the NFL and Cleveland Browns alumni, who helped hand out fresh produce and shelf-stable items along with NFL swag. The NFL also donated $35,000 to the food bank.
“You wait a lot, but it’s worth it coming down,” Ericka Mancia, who picked up food at the distribution, said.
Mancia is no stranger to the long lines wrapping the Cleveland municipal lot for the weekly distributions. She said she has picked up food often over the last year.
“Probably more than 10, 20 times. Because I come every Thursday,” Mancia said.
Before the pandemic, the food bank did one distribution a month feeding anywhere from 800 to 1,000 families, but now they’re seeing more than double those numbers with 2,000 to 3,000 families coming to the Muni Lot distributions every week.
“And this is just in our muni lot distribution. We have over 1,000 partner programs that are operating, and they are serving people as well. Over the last year, we've served 100,000 more people than the year prior,” GCFB director of communications Karen Pozna said. “I think the after-effects are going to be around for a while.”
Pozna said they saw something similar during the great recession. The economy started recovering, but many families still needed help putting food on the table.
“We’re planning really years out to feel the after-effects of this pandemic,” Pozna said.
She said the weekly distributions will continue as long as that need is there, and that donations like the NFL’s make a huge difference.
“For every dollar donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, we can provide enough food for four nutritious meals. So that money will be able to provide 140,000 meals, which is just so important especially as we start heading into the summer months and kids are going to be out of school,” Pozna said. “We also see an increase at that time of the year as well. So this money is really going to go a long way to helping feed people right here in Northeast Ohio.”
Anyone in need should visit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s website for information about how to find their nearest pantry.
The GCFB is also looking for more volunteers and monetary donations in order to keep feeding families in need.
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