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How to ask for help? More people experience need for first time due to pandemic

Food insecurities are on the rise this year, including many people who are facing need for the first time ever. However, it is not always easy asking for help.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — More Americans, including in Hampton Roads, are experiencing food insecurity for the first time in their lifetimes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Programs are willing to help, but people need to ask first. However, not everyone feels comfortable.

“This time has been unprecedented,” said Leah Williams-Rumbley, the senior director of advocacy for The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

The 24th Annual Mayflower Marathon and Food Drive kicked off Friday, and volunteers hope to collect enough canned goods and monetary donations to serve more than 700,000 meals in the region. Donors can drive-by and drop off donations at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach at any time until Sunday evening.

Data released this month by Feeding America shows food insecurity in Virginia Beach increased by 40 percent from 2018 to 2020. In Chesapeake, the number rose by 37 percent; 30 percent in Hampton; 32 percent in Suffolk; 31 percent in Newport News, and 28 percent in Norfolk.

Williams-Rumbley has noticed an increase in people seeking help since the pandemic, including people that are not accustomed to being in need.

“Hunger doesn’t have a face,” she said. “There’s no specific way that food insecurity looks. There’s no specific way that it manifests in the way people present themselves.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated 13.7 million Americans (10.5 percent) were food insecure at some point in the year in 2019.

Recently, Northwestern University researchers found that number has doubled to 23 percent of Americans and tripled for households with children.

A study released this week by Two Good Yogurt and OnePoll revealed 40 percent of people who responded said they need help with food for the first time in their lives because of the pandemic. Though it can be hard for people to accept, Williams-Rumbley assures it is okay to seek help.

There’s never ever shame because life has shifted and thrown a curve ball your way,” she said.

If you are uncomfortable asking for help, here are some things to think about by licensed clinical social worker Amy Morin:

  • Admitting you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Getting help can save you a lot of time and aggravation.
  • Seeking assistance gives others an opportunity to serve you.
  • You are not the only one struggling.