BOSTON — Between cooking meals and making deliveries to combat changing needs, food pantries have had their hands full during the pandemic.
And following the expiration of expanded unemployment benefits through the federal government, groups that provide emergency meals are expecting another surge in need.
Food insecurity reached new highs in the past year, but experts worry the full effects of the pandemic’s economic upheaval are still to come — even as vaccination rates rise. Western Massachusetts saw a roughly 47 percent increase in hunger over the pandemic, with the greatest impact on child hunger, national nonprofit Feeding America estimates. A growing number of visits to food pantries and use of government aid, including the supplemental nutritional assistance program, reflected the increase in Berkshire County.
“During COVID, we saw a lot more people who had never used our services and had never needed support, ever,” said Lillian Baulding, communications