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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Food-Pantry Requests Leap Since COVID-19

In the first week since COVID-19 was designated a pandemic, requests for food pantries skyrocketed across the United States, according to data from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. Requests for home-delivered meals more than tripled in the same time period.

Researchers at the school’s Health Communication Research Laboratory (HCRL) track calls for hundreds of needs to 2-1-1 help lines across the U.S. They compared the number of requests received by 2-1-1s in 21 states and cities from March 12-18 to the same seven days in 2019.

The researchers have established a web page, FOCUS-19, to report new findings daily on the greatest needs and calls specific to COVID-19.

“In all 21 locations, requests for food pantries were much higher in the last week, often 2-4 times higher than the same week last year,” said Dr. Matthew Kreuter, the Kahn Family Professor of Public Health at the Brown School. “The size and suddenness of these increases is striking. People need help feeding their families, and local agencies need help keeping pace with the higher demand.”

Dr. Kreuter is senior scientist at the HCRL, which developed 2-1-1 Counts, the first tool to provide real-time, searchable and visual presentations of data from 2-1-1 call centers across the country. Data tracked by 2-1-1 Counts can be searched and displayed by date, county, congressional district and more.Each year, 2-1-1s receive 16 million requests, not only seeking emergency services, but also basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.

This research is conducted in partnership with Health Communication Impact LLC, United Way and 2-1-1 help lines.

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