CHARLOTTE, NC (WJZY) — It has been nearly one year since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in North Carolina. There are still many people struggling to make ends meet because of the impact on the economy.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate is at 6.7%, which is down from a high of about 15% in March 2020 but still above pre-pandemic levels.
Food assistance programs in the Charlotte area say they are still seeing an influx of clients and first-timers needing help. It has now become commonplace at mobile food pantries to see long lines.
“I am on a fixed income and so the food pantry is very important to me,” said Shril Briggs.
North Carolina has increased food stamp benefits by 15% for the next six months, but many who use the SNAP food stamp program say that’s not enough.
“They are talking about this stimulus check, you may get it, you may not. Even with the extra food stamps, it’s still not enough so it’s really tough,” said Briggs.
Briggs was at a mobile food pantry in Huntersville on Wednesday. It’s one of 24 mobile sites that Loaves & Fishes of Charlotte helps operate every week.
The Loaves and Fishes executive director says about half of her clients use SNAP benefits, but most run out within a few weeks.
“And then the other half are just experiencing a short term crisis where they don’t need SNAP dollars on a regular basis, they just need really temporary help,” said Tina Postel.
An example is the COVID-19 pandemic, where calls for assistance are up to levels not seen since the 2008 recession.
Loaves & Fishes has been helping feed the community for 45 years and is ready for this latest challenge.
“Financial recovery will be long,” said Postel.
Right now Loaves & Fishes can only allow small groups of volunteers inside its warehouse due to the ongoing COVID-19 challenges.
Anyone who would like to volunteer, donate, or needs food assistance can find out more here.