You’ve probably seen pictures of the endless lines. You’ve likely heard stories of the hourslong wait times. Food banks have never been so swamped nationally, and the demand is only growing.
They need help. Lots of it. Fortunately, athletes around here know it.
The novel coronavirus has wreaked havoc on lives both physically and economically. It has people scared, it has people mourning, it has people in a perpetual state of uncertainty.
But it has also spawned kindness and generosity in a manner that reminds us that people, for the most part, are good.
On March 17, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Ciara, his wife, announced on Instagram that they were gifting one million meals ($200,000 worth) to the Food Lifeline, a chapter of Feeding America that serves as the primary provider to more than 300 food banks in western Washington.
The next day former NBA guard and Rainier Beach star Jamal Crawford gifted 125,000 meals to the Food Lifeline. Former Washington safety Taylor Rapp, who’s now with the Rams, followed with a $6,250 donation to the cause. And a day later, former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu donated $5,100 (his jersey number was 51), which amounted to 20,500 meals.
I reached out to Crawford to ask what inspired him to give. Easiest question he’s ever gotten.
“Being human,” said Crawford, who credited his wife, Tori, with helping him find other places to donate as well, such as the Rotary Boys & Girls Club and World Vision. “You follow all this so much, you read the paper, you see what’s going in the world, and it’s so sad on so many levels. Obviously you can’t save the world, but you can help and hopefully inspire other people to do the same.”
Rapp felt similarly.
“A lot of people are affected by this pandemic, especially the lower-income households. A lot of kids and families aren’t able to get meals,” said Rapp, who also donated to Meals on Wheels. “I saw this as an opportunity to help out and hopefully get people to come together.”
The Seattle Storm has contributed to the Food Lifeline as well. By selling merchandise such as T-shirts and hoodies, the WNBA team had raised nearly $18,000 as of Friday.
It’s not just happening in Seattle, either. Tom Brady, Steph Curry, Ronda Rousey, Cal Ripken, Laila Ali and JJ Watt are all among those who have donated to Feeding America at some point throughout this crisis.
Unfortunately, the problem is a long way from solved.
Chris Nishiwaki, the director of marketing and communications for the Food Lifeline, anticipates that about 2 million Washingtonians will need food assistance by the end of the month. He said $120 million must be raised to feed the hungry in our state, and that money is becoming harder and harder to come by.
For various reasons food donations are down about 70 percent. Grocery stores have less to give because they are selling out. People have less money to give because they are out of work. Volunteers are sparse because of social-distancing guidelines. And every day the demand for food surges.
Long lines for food banks in a particular region are nothing new. It’s commonplace after a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake.
But those are regional calamities that prompt support from food banks around the country. The coronavirus, on the other hand, is hitting just about every region.
Zuani Villarreal is the director of communication for Feeding America, and she is beyond grateful for the support from athletes around the nation. Not only have they opened up their wallets, they’ve raised awareness and inspired others to do the same. But she wants everyone to know there’s more — much more — to do.
“What food banks are facing are a set of circumstances we’ve never faced before,” Villarreal said. “We’re getting to the point where we have to turn people (who need food) away.”
To donate to the Food Lifeline, log on to foodlifeline.org or call 206-545-6600. For Feeding America, log onto feedingamerica.org.
Athletes generally make their mark by stepping up in critical situations. This is a time where we can all do the same.