More than 37 million Americans, including 11 million children, are dealing with hunger or food insecurity, according to Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks.
If you're experiencing a lack of food or food insecurity, the first place to start is with your own local food bank. A quick search online will help you find one. Depending on where you live, several food banks will pop up on a map within driving distance of your home.
The following websites can also offer assistance and point you in the right direction.
- Feeding America. Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks across the country. Use their search tool to find out if there's a local Feeding America food bank in your community.
- Food Pantries. Food Pantries lists thousands of food pantries, food banks, government food sources and nonprofit subsidized grocery resources around the country. For example, if a church has a food pantry in your area, it will likely be on this website.
- PantryNet.org. While this resource only lists food pantries that have requested to be on the site, it's worth checking out. You also may find some food resources of which you were not aware.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is the country's largest anti-hunger program. It's a federal program, but your state will determine if you're eligible for benefits. It can take a couple of weeks to get approved, so if you are in bad shape right now, you should apply for SNAP and use the food bank until SNAP benefits kick in.
- Full Cart. This is a project from the nonprofit organization Feeding Children Everywhere. If you're not able to go to a food bank in person, you may want to try out Full Cart. It's a virtual food bank that ships meals directly to the homes of families in need.
Child and family resources
The pandemic has made things tough on kids, and the Urban Institute's Health Reform Monitoring Survey illustrates this. The survey received responses from 9,032 adults aged 18 to 64 years and was conducted between March 25 and April 10, 2020. It found that 43.3% of parents with children younger than 19 years of age reported that they or a family member had lost a job due to the COVID-19 crisis. Almost one-third of respondents said that they were spending less money on food, utilities or medical costs.
In other words, even if children don't get the coronavirus, they may be severely affected by everything going on. But there are some places parents can turn to for help.
- National Diaper Bank Network. This is a valuable resource for parents with children who are still in diapers. According to the NDBN website, this organization "connects and supports the country's more than 200 community-based diaper banks that collect, store and distribute free diapers to struggling families. The Network serves nearly 280,000 children throughout the country each month."
If you're in need of clothing, your best bet is to do a Google search for "clothing closets near me" and see what pops up. Many churches offer free clothing closets. Catholic Community Charities is a nationwide organization that can help with clothing and supplies for children as well, and there are many great local clothing charities depending on where you live.
For instance, if you live in Central Ohio, Charity Newsies has been giving free clothing to kids since 1907. You need to apply for the free clothing and provide proof of income, and you'll need to bring your child with you when getting clothes. Most communities have similar options available.
According to the latest figures from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 552,830 people experiencing homelessness in 2018. The following resources can help people who need help with housing, and the coronavirus relief act also provides some options for people who aren’t able to pay rent due to the coronavirus.
- Affordable Rental Housing. There are federal government programs to aid low-income people to find and pay for affordable rental housing. The programs include subsidized housing, public housing and housing choice vouchers.
- HomelessShelterDirectory.org. If you're experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, this organization can help. You'll find shelters across the U.S. for families, individuals and for moms and their kids trying to escape domestic violence. It may be the last place you'd ever think you'd wind up in, but going to a shelter is better than being on the street.
- 211.org. If you need support or disaster assistance or you're in an immediate crisis that doesn't involve violence (in which case, call 911), you can call 211 or check the website. You'll find links for help with basic necessities, mental health and COVID-19-related emergencies not requiring 911.
Senior and caregiver resources
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 out of 10 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have been adults 65 and older.
That's one of the most devastating aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, but fortunately, there are organizations helping seniors during this time.
- Meals on Wheels. This is a service for senior citizens that delivers nutritious food to the country's most vulnerable senior citizens. There are over 5,000 non-government run chapters across the country.
- Pets for the Elderly. This organization works with shelters in 34 states to provide seniors with pet companions. In times of social distancing, seniors appreciate having a furry best friend.
- Eldercare Locator. If you have any issue you are trying to solve for a senior citizen, whether it's housing, insurance and benefits, health or transportation, Eldercare Locator can help. It is a federal directory of local services run by the Administration for Community Living. If you've been thinking, "There's got to be a local transportation service where my dad lives that could help him get to the doctor," Eldercare Locator should be able to provide that information.
Medical and health care resources
According to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that promotes health policy reform, 79 million Americans have trouble with medical bills or medical debt. This pandemic won't help bring down those numbers, but there are many places you can turn to for help.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. HHS offers a national directory of health centers that provide care on a sliding fee scale. According to the HHS, you can receive care even if you are uninsured or can't pay.
- National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC). This organization has approximately 1,200 clinics across the U.S., where people can access affordable medical treatment, including dental and vision services.
- Healthwell Foundation. This nonprofit organization helps with medical bills for those who meet eligibility requirements. Health insurance is required, but Healthwell pays for what health insurance isn't paying.
- Telehealth Access for Seniors. This new nonprofit organization, started during the pandemic by Yale and high school students, helps provide senior citizens with devices such as tablets and phones, so they can connect with their doctors over video, rather than going into the office and risking getting sick.
Utilities and household expense resources
The results of a 2019 Federal Reserve survey found that 39% of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 extra dollars for an unexpected expense, while 27% of them would borrow or sell something to come up with the money and 12% just wouldn't be able to pay. Add to that the fact that over 40 million American workers have filed unemployment claims since March, and it's not hard to imagine that many people need help paying their household bills. There are several resources to help those who qualify.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this program helps provide energy assistance to families in need. It assists with power and electric bills and also helps in emergency situations if utilities have been shut off. Individual states have their own programs for disbursing LIHEAP funds. Your local social services agency may also be able to help with utility bills.
- ModestNeeds.org. This national organization works to help struggling individuals and families in temporary crises. They can't help you get a loan for a new house, but if your refrigerator breaks, they may be able to help you get it replaced. If your application is accepted, Modest Needs sends money directly to where it needs to go. For example, if your car is broken down and you've been approved for the funds to fix it, the money goes directly to the auto repair center where your car is being repaired.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 57% of American households have at least one pet.
Now more than ever, we recognize how much pets add to our lives. For people who live alone and are sheltering in place, their pets help keep loneliness at bay.
For people who are experiencing financial difficulty because of the coronavirus, it can be challenging to pay for pet needs. We want to take the very best care of our pets, but it can be expensive. The Humane Society has compiled a list of organizations to help. On this list, you'll find discounted pet care options and financial assistance for veterinary services.
Find the help you need
Although some people are going back to work and things are getting back to normal, the pandemic and its economic effects are still causing stress for many people. If you're one of the people feeling the pain, you are not alone. There are organizations out there that want to help, with more coming on board every week. These problems aren't going to be solved overnight, but your first step is to reach out. If you need help, start with some research and then send a text or email or make a simple phone call to organizations eager to help.
Geoff Williams is a writer for MoneyGeek.