We still need to fight for food security in Bucks County.
United Way of Bucks County began its fight against food insecurity in our community in 2013. That year — the first time we held Bucks Knocks Out Hunger — 10% of Bucks residents were food insecure, including 16% of all children. In the nine intervening years, we made steady progress, reducing the percentage of Bucks County residents who were uncertain about where their next meal might be coming from.
All that changed last spring because of COVID-19.
Bucks County, like most of the nation, ground to a near halt economically as we shuttered our doors and hunkered down. Within two weeks, families living paycheck to paycheck were pushed past the breaking point financially. They found their cabinets and refrigerators increasingly bare and reached out for help with food, many for the first time ever.
Feeding America estimated that in just two months, the rate of food insecurity in Bucks County jumped from 7.4% to 11.7% of all residents, an increase of 27,000 people in Bucks County alone. The increased need stretched food resources thin and the number of people attending Fresh Connect, our free mobile farmers market for food-insecure residents of Bucks County, quadrupled in a matter of weeks. COVID-19 had essentially erased a near decade of progress in our fight against food insecurity.
That is not the end of the story. Bucks County is resilient and at United Way of Bucks County, we did not give up. We quickly adapted our programs and sought and found additional resources to keep going. Our donors dug deeper, and we worked harder to keep people fed. Gradually things began to improve and while it now feels like we are on the road to recovery, many are still in financial crisis.
You see, the impacts of COVID-19 were not felt equally by all people. Those who were already struggling when the pandemic hit, were among those who suffered the largest economic setbacks. The recovery, too, is uneven. While some who became unemployed have started working again, missed mortgage payments and swollen credit card bills must still be paid. The fight is not over.
That is why Bucks Knocks Out Hunger is more important than ever this year. Bucks Knocks Out Hunger raises funds that support our partners to provide additional needed foods to food pantries, helping them keep up with the increased demand. It also supports Fresh Connect, which still is serving three times the number of people it did in early 2020. While the federal government stepped in to provide extra food during the pandemic, some of these supplemental supports will end May 31st.
Our goals for BKO Hunger 2021 are to raise $100,000 to fight food-insecurity and to gather 30,000 lbs. of nonperishable foods to keep food pantry shelves stocked. We still need your help.
You can donate by going to www.uwbucks.org/bkohunger and you can drop off food items on June 18th and 19th at five collection sites in Bucks County.