Jeff Bezos writes big check to Feeding America

Mike Troy
Editorial Director
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Food banks face major challenges due to a COVID-19 perfect storm that affects demand, donations and funding.

A day after the nation’s largest hunger relief organization detailed a huge funding shortfall and shortage of food, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos wrote a huge check. Bezos donated $100 million to Feeding America, an amount equal to about 3.5% of the organization’s 2019 revenues of $2.83 billion.

“This donation, the largest single gift in our history, will enable us to provide more food to millions of our neighbors facing hardship during this crisis. Countless lives will be changed because of his generosity,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America.

Bezos announced the donation via his Instagram account and explained the challenge the organization faces.

“Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress significantly,” Bezos said. “Non-profit food banks and food pantries rely in large part on surplus food from a range of food businesses. For example, many restaurants donate excess food. But during this time of social distancing, restaurants are closed, and many other normal channels of excess food have also shut down. To make matters worse, as supply is dwindling, demand for food bank services is going up.”

Bezos said he wanted to support those on the front lines at the nation’s food banks and $100 million will certainly help.

The day before Bezos’ donation, Feeding America warned of a dire situation at the nation’s food banks.

“The people we serve and the charitable food system in the United States are facing a ‘perfect storm,’ with surges in demand, declines in food donations and volunteers, and disruptions to normal operating procedures, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Babineaux-Fontenot said. “It is all of our neighbors who now more than ever need help putting food on their tables.”

Feeding America estimates an additional $1.4 billion in resources will be needed over the next six months to provide enough food for those struggling with hunger—a 30% increase to the baseline six-month operating costs of 200 member food banks nationwide.

Donations to the Feeding America network are in decline due to increased consumer demand and supply chain challenges, including decreased food donations from manufacturers and grocery retailers, and less shelf-stable food available for purchase, according to the organization. Early indications across the network show a decrease of nearly 60% of their volunteer workforce who typically help package and deliver food, many of whom are retired senior citizens and school/corporate groups.