HATFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- It’s been a difficult time for many individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts reports hunger impacts over 90,000 western Mass. residents.

To help provide assistance to those that need it most, the Food Bank is asking people to step up during Hunger Action Month.

“Unfortunately, we are dealing with two pandemics right now. Obviously, COVID-19 and we believe hunger is a pandemic that’s been going on for far too long,” said Food Bank executive director Andrew Morehouse.

It’s a critical time to donate to local food banks as many families are struggling to put food on the table.

“Since COVID-19 struck, we have been providing food to approximately 104,000 people every month and that’s a staggering number - 13 percent more than the same period last year…kids, elders, people with disabilities, veterans, and increasingly people who are unemployed,” Morehouse noted.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August 21, Massachusetts’ unemployment rate is at 16.1 percent.

“In fact, about 22,000 people every month are new patrons to food pantries and meal sites because they are currently furloughed or unemployed due to COVID-19,” Morehouse added.

Morehouse said this alarming percentage has the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts concerned.

“Feeding America, the national association of food banks, estimates that, here in western Massachusetts, the number of people who may need food assistance because they are quote-unquote ‘food insecure’ could rise to 137,000 people, so that is a significant increase,” Morehouse explained.

Morehouse told Western Mass News that MEMA, FEMA, farmers, and large retailers are continuing to donate to the food bank, but with the number of food bank patrons rising, they need more assistance.

“We will gladly accept donations by postal mail or online. Every dollar donated enables to provide four meals,” Morehouse noted.

That is why they are encouraging people to donate and help prevent hunger in our region during Hunger Action Month.

“September’s Hunger Action Month and among other things, we are launching our 10th annual Will Bike for Food, a virtual cycling event this month, any time, any day in the month of September. It’s an effort to raise awareness about hunger and support the food bank and our mission,” Morehouse said.

On September 10, the food bank is encouraging everyone to wear orange to help raise awareness.

At this time, they are only accepting monetary donations. To learn more, CLICK HERE.

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