Written by Ken Garfield
Save a place in your heart this season for the millions of Americans whose lives have been made more desperate by COVID-19, including the dozens who lined up at the Loaves & Fishes mobile pantry Tuesday for a taste of Thanksgiving.
Heartbreakingly so, business is booming for ministries that help feed the hungry. Nationally, one study found that food insecurity will afflict 52 million people due to COVID-19, an increase of 17 million from pre-pandemic days. Charlotte-based Loaves & Fishes, a SHARE Charlotte partner, has served more than 100,000 people so far in 2020. That is up from 80,000 in all of 2019.
The virus has changed how Loaves & Fishes is having to operate. Permanent pantries have temporarily been replaced by 20-plus mobile food pantries operating each week across the county. Also, some 250 people are receiving home deliveries each week. In
pre-COVID days, 1,000 people a week turned to Loaves & Fishes for help. In one week
in April, after COVID-19 struck, 3,700 came for a week’s week of groceries plus meat, dairy, veggies and other fresh foods. This week, there are also turkeys to give away because so many good-hearted people bought extras to give to the pantry.
It takes hundreds of volunteers to get the job done, folks like Arnette Brewington. There she was Tuesday morning outside Holy Comforter Episcopal Church on Park Road, part of the team serving 200 people who came to the mobile food pantry for help. Arnette, 77, has been volunteering at her church’s pantry for seven years. A widow with two children out of state, she’ll be alone on Thanksgiving Day. Her day to give thanks (and give out groceries) came two days early. “When people are crying and so thankful you know it’s better to give than receive,” she says. “Work at Loaves & Fishes and you’ll find out what that means.”
Hear the voices, and stories, of those who came to Holy Comforter on Tuesday…
COVID-19 has taken its financial toll on Maya. A vegetarian, on Thanksgiving she’ll enjoy the stuffing and whatever else she receives from Loaves & Fishes. This season, she’s thankful that her mother is well. But, she adds, “I’m wondering if I can pay the rent.”
Terry is on disability, having suffered a stroke years ago. He’ll spend Thanksgiving sharing a potluck supper with neighbors, thankful he’s not alone. Thankful he won’t be hungry. “I can’t complain,” he says.
Joanna could complain, but she’s trying her best not to. Times have been made tougher by COVID-19. This is her first time turning to Loaves & Fishes. She’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with her husband, if celebrate is the right word. “My mood?” she asks, crying in her car as she waits in line for food. “Just to forget about the world for a little while.”
To support Loaves & Fishes with a donation of time, money or groceries (or all three), visit www.loavesandfishes.org.
With #GivingTuesdayCLT around the corner, there is no shortage of ways to support local nonprofits. Mark your calendar and make a plan to give on December 1st as Charlotte celebrates the largest global day of giving by uplifting our local nonprofit community.