(WQOW)- As the need for food assistance continues to grow across the U.S., local food banks are preparing to ramp up food distribution again now that a federal initiative has been renewed to start the year.
The USDA announced last week it has set aside $1.5 billion for the latest round of funding for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, a pandemic response that contracts food manufacturers to pack boxes of fresh goods for those in need.
Officials at Feed My People Food Bank in Eau Claire say they served 35% more people in 2020 than the previous year, and the continued program will help provide enough food to meet the demand during the pandemic.
"There are a lot of people in the counties that we serve that find themselves for the first time needing food," said Nancy Renkes, executive director of Feed My People Food Bank. "These boxes have ensured that we've been able to feed those people, and I don't know how we would have met that need, but it would have been much more difficult and much more costly."
Renkes says Feed My People distributed 37,000 boxes as part of the program last year and says because boxes are pre-packaged, it eliminates the need for volunteers to pack them, keeping them from gathering and safe from COVID-19.
Renkes says Feed My People has not been notified if they will receive food allocations this month, but fully expects to be included, and hopes to see them distributed by early February.