Holiday meal requests coming earlier in 2020

Voting isn’t the only thing people are lining up for earlier than usual this year. There’s also turkey. Every year, tens of thousands of low-income Americans call 2-1-1 for help finding food to make a Thanksgiving meal for their families. In some communities, those requests are piling up already, weeks sooner than usual. We examined holiday meal requests received by 2-1-1s in New York during 2019 and 2020 (top chart). Data from 2019 (blue line) show that requests for holiday meals typically begin to rise in the last week of October, climb steadily through Thanksgiving, and remain high until just before Christmas Day. In 2020 (orange line), these requests started a full month earlier. Why? Upon closer examination, nearly all of the early requests came from Broome County (bottom chart), where the Susquehanna River Region 2-1-1 partnered with Catholic Charities to sign up families to receive Thanksgiving baskets. Analyses also showed that Broome County already has more holiday meal requests in 2020 (through October 26th) than all of 2019 combined – a 219% increase. Agencies and charities that provide Thanksgiving meals and baskets are having to work differently during COVID-19, because many cannot safely serve meals in person or have families sign up in person. We are tracking holiday meal needs at other 2-1-1s to see if NY’s experience of more, earlier requests is widespread.

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