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Pandemic shines light on hunger in Omaha

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 2:37 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In Omaha and across the country, more families went to food pantries for help after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry has been helping people for years but was caught off-guard when the pandemic hit. Demand tripled, and organizers tell 6 News they distributed groceries, diapers, and toiletries to about 33,000 individuals, or 16,0900 families.

The outbreak has shed a light on Omaha’s hunger problem.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” said Gillian Cromwell, manager of the food pantry. “We had to do a lot of scrambling to make up for increased demand.”

People drive up or walk up to get the food. Larry took his dog Duke for a walk and to pick up groceries.

“This place has really helped me out, in more ways than one ... with dog food for my dog, with milk for my cereal to butter for my bread,” he said.

Cerita is one of many clients who drive up for groceries. She told 6 News she was picking up food for multiple families who didn’t have transportation.

“Everybody’s got to pull together and help, " she said. “This disease has really hurt everyone, so everybody has to help.”

Cromwell said hunger is “one of those invisible problems” and is pervasive in the community.

“People don’t understand the scope of hunger and food insecurity in Omaha. “You never know who needs food. It’s not something you can see when somebody walks down the street. It doesn’t matter what kind of car they drive. ... it really impacts anybody and everybody, so there are a lot of folks in need in our community, especially after the pandemic.”

Cromwell thanked the residents of Nebraska for stepping up.

“We are blessed to live in such a generous state where we have folks who are willing to help support the pantry. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many people come together to help.”

Food is distributed at the pantry from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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