NEW ORLEANS (CBS) – Desperation is growing by the day for Americans who lost their jobs over the coronavirus pandemic. An estimated 17 million people could now be facing hunger, in addition to those who already battle it every day.
Feeding America, the national organization linking U.S. food banks, estimates it will need an additional $1.4 billion to meet increased needs over the next six months.
“When you’re living, you don’t have to worry about surviving, cause you know you’re living. There’s a difference,” New Orleans resident Troy Riles told CBS News’ Mireya Villarreal.
Streets usually bustling with tourists are now empty under the Louisiana city’s coronavirus lockdown, and shops that locals relied on for their income are closed.
Troy Riles and Caroline Caston went to a small church pantry after the couple became newly unemployed. They said they had saved up just enough to keep up with essential bills for a few months, are they are starting to ration their own food.
“Right now, it’s survival mode,” Riles said.
Going into “survival mode” has forced fellow New Orleans residents to seek help getting food, but they know they are not alone in it.
“We need help, like probably every city does,” Jan Perera, a New Orleans resident, said.
Another woman, Julia Bourgeois, said she was missing staples such as “milk, eggs, bread” at home.
Since the pandemic began, the food banks in New Orleans said they have served over 143,000 pounds of food to more than 2,500 families in just one day.
Similar scenes are playing out across the country. The National Guard has been deployed to help with the increased demand in food banks.
In Boston, the National Guard is assisting with food pantry lines that stretch several blocks.
Asked if it was difficult for him to seek help from a food bank, Troy Riles said it was “not whatsoever.”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” the New Orleans local said. “Everybody sometimes gets down on their luck.”