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Food bank in Houston sees huge jump in demand during pandemic

Food banks struggling to keep up with demand
Thousands line up as food banks struggle to keep up with demand 02:22

With 30 million jobs lost during the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are low on money — and food. To help, the federal government plans to spend $300 million a month to buy surplus from farmers. That's food they would have been forced to dump. Instead, food banks will be the benefactors.

Gridlock in every direction for miles. That's what happened at the Houston Food Bank giveaway where more than 7,000 families showed up for food.

There was desperation that the nation's fourth-largest city has never seen.

A look at the steady stream of cars lined up at the Houston Food Bank. CBS affiliate KHOU-TV

Houston has the nation's largest food bank, serving 18 counties from a 135,000 square foot warehouse.

"We're now averaging close to a million pounds a day of actual distribution here and we're still not meeting the need," said Brian Greene, Houston Food Bank's CEO.

Greene said demand is up 150% from two months ago, which keeps the facility moving non-stop.

One of the reasons is because only a fraction of the regional volunteers are able to work in the warehouse at a time.

Plenty do want to help, like Amy Allen who brought her two children to volunteer. But because of social distancing guidelines, they can only have 150 people in the building. It was built to accommodate 1,000.

"All the packing work, it's being able to keep up with the labor is actually what our biggest problem is," Greene explained.

Workers inside the Houston Food Bank CBS affiliate KHOU-TV

There's plenty of food — including meat — despite projected shortages. And the produce room is overflowing as farms donate vegetables that would have been sold to restaurants.

What's missing is the human connection people need, according to Greene, but that social distancing won't allow.

"We're putting the stuff in their trunk and we're not talking to somebody who right now ... It's not just that they need food. They need comfort right now," Greene said.

But large giveaways like this are filling pantries for millions across the country who never thought they'd ask for help.

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