In a typical week, 2-1-1s get hundreds of requests from people looking for a food pantry to help feed their families. In Wisconsin, 2-1-1 receives over 500 such requests a week, Maryland and Pennsylvania get 200 requests a week, and Alabama, Missouri and Nevada get over 100 weekly requests. We examined food pantry requests from 2-1-1s in 17 states for the week of March 12-18, 2020, the first seven days after the coronavirus outbreak was designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization. We found that every one of these 2-1-1s experienced big jumps in total requests, ranging from 72% to 373% increases compared to the same week in 2019.
Some states have multiple local or regional 2-1-1 helplines rather than a single statewide service. To determine whether regional 2-1-1s were experiencing the same increases as statewide helplines, we selected four of the larger ones, from Miami, Orlando, Nashville and Sacramento. All four had received more requests during the week of March 12-18, 2020 compared to the same week in 2019. For three of the cities, those increases were very large.