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Mid-South Food Bank expects same heightened need after federal unemployment benefits end

The Mid-South Food Bank didn't expect the need to spike after unemployment benefits ended because the need was already high.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Mid-South Food Bank says even though extra unemployment benefits ended in Tennessee, they don't expect to see a spike in need.

Governor Bill Lee opted to end the pandemic benefits early on July 3.

“We’re not expecting changes due to unemployment just because our largest group of people we serve are actually working poor," Haley Scruggs, of the Mid-South Food Bank, said.

Scruggs said it's not a matter of people working or not but the impact of low-income jobs.

"They already have jobs," Scruggs said. "They’re not making enough money to fill that need of nutritional food so we’re not expecting a high spike because those people are probably already using our resources.”

The need in Memphis and Mid-South was already high prior to the pandemic. Scruggs said about 320,000 people living in the area are food insecure and in need of their services.

“We’ve always had a problem of people needing food assistance," Scruggs said. "I think the pandemic really highlighted that need so the need has been consistent over the past year."

Scruggs said for several months, the food bank was distributing more than six million pounds of food. They're on pace to distribute up to 4 million pounds per month which is still much higher than prior to the pandemic.

“But we do have close communication with all our partner agencies and we do monitor the amount of people who are either visiting our partner agencies or visiting our mobile agencies to see if we need to make adjustments," Scruggs said.

She said the food bank has gone down in distribution numbers partly for the fact that it's not financially sustainable to deliver at such a high level. 

A $1 donation to the food bank can provide three meals for a family in need. Donate here.