USA – Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of American multinational e-commerce giant, Amazon, has donated US$100 million to the Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund to support food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States with a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs and a capacity to provide meals to more than 40 million people each year.

Bezos said that the US$100 million contribution will be distributed through the organization’s national network of food banks and pantries. 

“Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress significantly,” Bezos said in an Instagram post.

“Non-profit food banks and food pantries rely in large part on surplus food from a range of food businesses. For example, many restaurants donate excess food.

“But during this time of social distancing, restaurants are closed, and many other normal channels of excess food have also shut down. To make matters worse, as supply is dwindling, demand for food bank services is going up.”

“I want to support those front lines at our nations’s food Bnks with a $100 million gift to Feeding America,” Bezos wrote.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America said that the donation, which the largest single gift in the origination’s history, will enable it to provide more food to people facing hardship during this crisis.

US$1.4bn shortfall due to the COVID-19 crisis

This comes at a time when the hunger-relief organization revealed that it estimates US$1.4 billion in additional resources will be needed over the next six months to provide enough food to people struggling with hunger.

This represents a 30% increase to the baseline six-month operating costs of 200 member food banks nationwide. 

Feeding America says that school closures, rising unemployment and rising poverty due to quarantine and stay-at-home orders will disproportionately impact people already at risk of hunger and could result in an estimated additional 17.1 million people (a 46% increase) experiencing food insecurity.

The situation is expected to become more dire as food donations to the Feeding America network are in decline due to increased consumer demand and supply chain challenges, including decreased food donations from manufacturers and grocery retailers, and less shelf-stable food available for purchase.

Early indications across the network show a decrease of nearly 60% of their volunteer workforce who typically help package and deliver food, many of whom are retired senior citizens and school/corporate groups.

“The people we serve and the charitable food system in the United States are facing a ‘perfect storm,’ with surges in demand, declines in food donations and volunteers, and disruptions to normal operating procedures, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” Claire says.

An initial impact analysis of the COVID-19 crisis and CEO pulse surveys of the Feeding America food bank network shows that within a week of CDC guidelines on social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, 41% of food banks were already reporting an immediate critical funding shortfall. 

The survey also found that throughout the Feeding America network, 65% of food banks reported an immediate need for disaster food boxes totaling 493 truckloads.