‘We don’t have a playbook’: Greater Boston Food Bank sees demand more than double

Greater Boston Food Bank sees demand more than double

BOSTON — While most warehouses throughout the area are quiet right now, one facility has never been busier. The Greater Boston Food Bank, which supplies necessities to 190 communities in eastern Massachusetts, has recently doubled its shipments.

Cheryl Schondek, the senior vice president for food acquisition and supply chain, said the food bank has been very busy trying to handle the surge in demand. “We open at four in the morning and we close when we’re done.”

A complicated ballet of movers gets tons of food into the 117,000-square-foot facility and then ships it back out to more than 500 food pantries and soup kitchens throughout metropolitan Boston and beyond.

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It's Schondek's job to figure out the logistics as demand has soared during the pandemic.

“Our volume has doubled," she said. “If we look at what we distributed in March, it’s over 8 million pounds of healthy food, nutritious meals for our clients. That is a 50 percent increase and our volume continues to grow.”

Widescale layoffs have sent many people to food banks for the first time."Given the unemployment figures that we see every day, the face of hunger continues to change and the need continues to rise," Schondek added.

Today, she is grateful to her suppliers but is concerned about the future. She said they haven’t yet determined when they will reach the maximum amount they can deliver but she thinks they’ll get to that point soon.

For now, the staff is working six days a week and doing everything they can to make sure people have enough to eat. Schondek says the food bank is used to handling emergencies and economic downturns but believes this one is different.

“I think it’s the fear of the unknown. We don’t have a playbook, we’re creating a playbook every day,” she said. “In my 30 years in the food business, we’ve had to handle weather disasters. We’ve never had to handle a disaster such as this.”

Food remains a comfort for Schondek, especially when she can get it to someone who needs it.

Need help?

Find food pantries and resources through Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline

Call the Mass 211 hotline for help finding resources

You can help support the Greater Boston Food Bank by donating or volunteering

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