(NBC News) The coronavirus pandemic continues to put extreme pressure on food banks and the communities they serve across the country.
According to census data more than ten percent of Americans say they’re food scarce right now.
With that need only expected to continue, food banks are increasingly bringing in reinforcements and pivoting, finding innovative ways to serve unprecedented demand.
Prior to the pandemic, Feeding South Florida was serving about 700,000 food insecure families.
“Right now we’re seeing about 1.3 million and that number is holding steady, unfortunately,” says Feeding South Florida’s Sari Vatske.
The organization recently opened a 5,000 square foot community kitchen and is hiring chefs and using culinary students to cook the raw ingredients it receives, prolonging their shelf life and eliminating waste.
“This will enable us to take full trailer loads of apples, for example. Instead of just delivering them to families we’ll be able to turn them into applesauce, dehydrate them and turn them into apple chips,” Vatske says.
They’ll also host virtual cooking classes to help clients make the most of donations.
In Los Angeles the “Reach For The Top” project places community refrigerators in hard hit neighborhoods.
People take what they need, no questions asked.
“There’s anonymity, there’s basically the ability to walk up, grab food and leave,” says Reach For The Top’s Paloma Vergara.