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Where to find food assistance during COVID-19

There's help to be had.

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SDI Productions / Getty Images.

The continued spread of coronavirus and the shutdown of nonessential business has had devastating ripple effects across the country. One of those effects is increased hunger and general food insecurity as more and more people find themselves without paychecks, unable to feed themselves or their families.

If you're one of those folks or suspect someone you know is in need, there are resources to find very basic food essentials and hot meals. New York, for instance, which already has a robust network of food kitchens, recently announced that three meals a day will be provided for any New Yorkers in need, available for pickup at over 400 locations throughout the city. Below is some information for finding food assistance in some of the largest and hardest-hit US cities. We will continue to update this post with new information, but please seek out your local food bank or pantry to find out the latest information about operating hours and updated safety procedures.

Just as importantly, if you are food stable and can afford it, consider making a donation to your local food bank. Most are stretched to some of the thinnest margins imaginable, with circumstances only expected to worsen. Donations of food and/or money now are as important as ever. 

New York City

As one of the hardest-hit areas in the country, New York City has thousands of restaurant, retail and hospitality industry workers out of work. As of April 3, all New Yorkers can receive three free meals per day at over 430 sites across the five boroughs amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Families and children can pick up their meals between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., and adults can pick up between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. To find a school in your area distributing food, call 311, check NYC.gov or text the word FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to find a location near you.

Chicago 

According to the Chicago Food Bank, the majority of food pantries and programs remain open and you can find a food program here. It is recommended to call first to confirm program hours and requirements. 

Los Angeles

Los Angelenos who need help putting food on the table during the coronavirus closures can get information from the Los Angeles Controller's Office, according to the LA Daily News. The office recently published information on where help is available, along with a map about where the Los Angeles Unified School District is distributing free meals for children as well as where folks can find food pantries.

New Orleans 

Another city with an extremely high volume of restaurant and service workers now out of work is New Orleans, where food banks have been pushed to the breaking point. Last month the federal government agreed to release access to a stockpile of emergency food for this type of crisis, helping to stem the rising tide of food insecurity. If you're in New Orleans and in need of a hot meal, visit the Second Harvest Food Bank or call 1-855-392-9338 to find out how to qualify for food assistance.

Houston

As the nation's fourth-largest city, Houston has a substantial volume of food insecurity only worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak. Visit Houston Food Bank for an interactive map and more information on the city's response to COVID-19 and continued efforts to feed hungry Houstonians.  

Detroit

Michigan and its largest city, Detroit, are poised to be one of the hardest-hit regions in the country. This article outlines all the programs that state residents can take advantage of during the crisis.

San Jose

This map posted on the San Jose Mercury News website features more than 400 food distribution sites, including free meal pickup locations for students and seniors, food banks and restaurants that are open for take-out. San Jose and Santa Clara County residents can type in their address and get a list of all the nearest food distribution sites to their homes.

Philadelphia

Like most cities, Philly has seen an uptick in demand for food banks, according to the Share Food Program, but one the city hopes it can meet. Visit its website to find out about the programs and if you qualify for assistance.

Las Vegas

The Clark County School District will provide breakfast and lunch to students during the school closures. Head to the Three Square website for a complete list of sites and hours of operations. Seniors who are at least 60 years old and are in need of food assistance can call 702-765-4030 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to find out which resource is best for them. They can also provide more information for SNAP benefits and nearby pantries, as well as discuss home delivery options.

Atlanta

Atlanta Community Food Bank is offering a new feature to help families and senior citizens during the crisis. According to the news website, 11 Alive, a "Text for Help" feature identifies the three closest food pantries to you when you text "findfood" (no spaces) or "comida" (for Spanish) to 888-976-2232. Texters will be prompted to give their zip code to better assist them.

Seattle

Washington was one of the first and hardest-hit states and it is still feeling the impact of the outbreak and economic shutdown. The Seattle Food Committee has put together a helpful map to locate food assistance in the city's six districts.