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Michigan food banks face increasing demands amid COVID-19 outbreak

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

COVID-19 is putting a strain on Michigan’s food banks.

Feeding America-west Michigan serves food pantries and other agencies in 40 Michigan counties.

In a normal month, Feeding America distributes 2.5 million pounds of food and other supplies.  On Tuesday alone, they moved more than 100,000 pounds.

Ken Estelle is the CEO of Feeding America-west Michigan. He says their workload is increasing at a time when they have fewer volunteers to process the food and other supplies.

Estelle worries what will happen if his staff start coming down with the virus.

“That would really have things come grinding to a halt here which would be pretty devastating for the people who depend on us,” says Estelle.

Meanwhile, some local food pantries have been forced to temporarily close or scale back operations.

Adil Mohammed is with theFlint Muslim Food Pantry.The pantry has been serving about a hundred families in the Flint area since the city’s water crisis.

But now the pantry is temporarily closed with its main distribution center closed due to the coronavirus.

Mohammed says that has forced them to cancel scheduled distributions until April.

“Cancelling that is going to create a lot of issues for those who rely on it,” says Mohammed.

He says the pantry’s future plans to distribute food and other supplies will depend on what happens with the outbreak. 

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.