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Businessweek

Food Pantries Have Had to Rethink Everything This Year

How four of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. are adapting to deliver aid during a pandemic.

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Illustration by Bill Rebholz

Feeding the hungry gets a lot of attention around the holidays, but this year food pantries began putting out calls for support on the day lockdowns began in March. The increase in need was compounded by social distancing measures, which meant forging new ways of giving and volunteering. We checked in on four areas in the U.S. where income inequality is particularly acute.

At Person-to-Person, located in a county that contains eight of the top 100 wealthiest ZIP codes in the U.S., the number of volunteers is down 33%. Retirees and older adults normally make up the bulk of them, but this is as an at-risk population, so many have been stepping back, perhaps permanently. College students and furloughed workers have filled part of the void, powering a new free-delivery service: More than 200 volunteers made 744 door-to-door deliveries to provide about 40,000 meals in October. “We had to pivot,” says Nancy Coughlin, chief executive officer of Person-to-Person.