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'It's off the charts' | State of hunger in Guilford County is 'extreme'

"Right now in the wake of COVID-19, we’re seeing an extreme need for food, while donations have dropped off significantly," the nonprofit A Simple Gesture explains.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County food pantries told WFMY News 2 that the coronavirus pandemic has created a dire situation. 

Donations have dropped off significantly, while the need has nearly tripled. 

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"We know that food insecurity has been an issue in our community for a long time," Leslie Isakoff, Executive Director of A Simple Gesture said. "But right now in the wake of COVID-19 we’re seeing an extreme need for food."

A Simple Gesture was created in 2015 in response to Guilford County being named one of the hungriest metropolitan areas in the country.

Greensboro-High Point ranked number 14 on The Food Research & Action Center's most recent national list for food hardship.

Credit: Food Research & Action Center

"We have so many pockets of poverty in Guilford county," Carl Vierling said. He is the Executive Director of the Greater High Point Food Alliance.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Isakoff says this is easily the worst its been in our lifetime for food insecurity.

"It's just off the charts," she explained. "On February 29, North Carolina was experiencing about 17% food insecurity, but by March 31, it was at 41%."

The numbers for April have not yet been released.

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"What we have seen so far among the local food pantries is that some of them have doubled and tripled the number of people they're serving," Vierling continued. "At the same time they've had this explosion in need, the number of donations they get have dwindled."

Isakoff said there are two reasons behind the major donation dip.

"Either peoples financial situations have changed so they can't afford to give anymore, or they're worried about getting out to grocery stores and we completely understand both."

Shelves at Backpack Beginnings have gone from a three month supply, to a two week supply at any given time. 

Backpack Beginnings feeds Guilford County Students, even through the summer months.

"In Guilford County we have 73,000 students and about 65% of those receive free and reduced lunch."

Nonprofits normally experience a donation drop in the summer months, and have said the pandemic created what seems like a very long summer. 

"Hunger is usually thought about by two factors: food accessibility and food affordability," Isakoff said. "Guilford County struggles with both of those."

Both factors have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

"Food is becoming more and more unaffordable for families that are losing their job, their financial situation has changed, but also we’re seeing food prices increase."

As donations dwindle, volunteers do too. The nonprofit organizations WFMY News 2 spoke with said most of their helping hands are retired folks who have stepped back for fear of their health.

So, consider donating your time, your money or both. 

A Simple Gesture has made it easy. The organization now has an Amazon wishlist, so you don't have to leave your home to give back.

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