The latest COVID-19 numbers are out and the numbers are staggering. According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County reached a one-day record high in coronavirus reporting this week with more than 7,500 new cases.
Now, all the summer and fall projections about foreboding numbers of infection appear to be coming to fruition. Angelenos are now being hit with eye-popping forecasts of up to 8,000 cases per day by the end of this week and perhaps 9,000 by the middle or end of next week.
The surge in cases has renewed many of the “stay-at-home” orders , and now is giving businesses and specifically restaurants yet another one-two-three punch, resulting in another round of closures. The domino effect of a lack of restaurant jobs and other business has spawned an enormous increase in food insecurity across the country.
According to Feeding America, a national nonprofit organization that represents a network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies, one in nine families nationally are food insecure. One in seven of those families have children.
Locally, at the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Food Pantry, the numbers seem just as daunting, with 43 percent of its clients being children and 11 percent are seniors. But according to James Espinoza, Executive Director of the food pantry, they are seeing more families than ever before and with wider demographics.
“At the beginning of COVID, colleges were sending their students back home, so families were definitely running the households and needed more assistance,” he said.
“Then people started losing their jobs, and being put on furlough, so the numbers have definitely increased drastically,” he added. “Now since kids are learning from home, even though the schools do provide them with lunch, but children do love to snack throughout the day, so family budgets have increased for their food.”
One of the casualties of COVID-19, reminiscent of the recent case with Trader Joe’s, when one employee can have a ripple effect on the provision of food for an entire community that needs it is the closing of the SCV Food Pantry for two days as one of its workers tested positive for COVID-19.
One of those community members was 36-year old Arkadiy Milker, a Santa Clarita resident who visits the food pantry every two weeks.
“I work at the post office, so I don’t make a lot of money, so I need this,” Milker said peering through the window of a dark, closed and empty food pantry.
“It’s been a fear for us since the beginning of COVID-19, and I’m thankful we’ve lasted this long without any positive results but unfortunately it seems our luck may have run out,” said Espinoza. “That’s why we’re trying to keep everything closed-keep clients safe, keep volunteers safe, keep the community safe.”
But as serious as a two-day closure of a local food pantry seems, by many accounts the prognostics for the entire country are much grimmer as many Capitol Hill economists are predicting a double-dip recession and nearly a year to return to pre-pandemic prosperity, especially if Congress continues to delay in the passing of a new relief bill to provide aid to Americans and their businesses.
With more businesses struggling, which causes more unemployment, an unhealthy economy will mandate the need for more healthy, successful and always open food pantries.