Hundreds of people lined up Friday outside of branches of a U.S. grocery store chain for a free food giveaway amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Megamart launched the grocery giveaway in Maryland as the COVID-19 outbreak has crippled the U.S. economy, leaving many people across the country unemployed.
The number of people seeking to receive the free grocery package or a voucher made it hard to follow social distancing guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
This was the scene over a Megamart store in Rockville, Maryland, as hundreds of people lined up for a food giveaway. Aerial images from our helicopter show long lines snaking through the parking lot and down the block More: https://t.co/1f5Yrp6EvZ #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/yHc14T749b— NBCWashington (@nbcwashington) April 17, 2020
Stay-at-home orders have been issued in most of the U.S. to fight the coronavirus that has infected more than 700,000 people in the country. At least 37,000 have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.
The shutdowns have inflicted heavy damage on economies around the world. In the U.S., the crisis has cost at least 22 million Americans their jobs, pushing the unemployment rates toward levels not seen since the Great Depression.
The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted a spike in demand at U.S. food pantries as millions of people find themselves furloughed, laid off or with businesses that have suffered huge financial blows.
Just as demand is skyrocketing, however, many of the food banks’ sources are drying up. Restaurants, hotels and resorts – many of which are shuttered or sharply limiting their operations – are no longer supplying them with food, while other suppliers are busy restocking grocery shelves. Farmers have switched from shipping vegetables and meats in bulk to individual packaging for grocery stores.
Feeding America, a nationwide association of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries, has seen an increase in demand from 98% of its member banks, according to a recent survey. The average increase for a member was 63%, while 95% of the association’s food banks reported an increase in operating expenses, the organization said.