World’s richest man Jeff Bezos donates $100M to US food banks as coronavirus threatens food security

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017.
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard rocket booster and Crew Capsule mockup at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States April 5, 2017. | REUTERS/Isaiah J. Downing

Amazon founder and the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, who has a net worth of approximately $115 billion, announced a $100 million donation to food banks in America Thursday as a hunger crisis threatens the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress significantly. Non-profit food banks and food pantries rely in large part on surplus food from a range of food businesses. For example, many restaurants donate excess food. But during this time of social distancing, restaurants are closed, and many other normal channels of excess food have also shut down. To make matters worse, as supply is dwindling, demand for food bank services is going up,” Bezos began in a statement on Instagram.

He then announced his $100 million donation to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

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“Today, I want to support those on the front lines at our nation’s food banks and those who are relying on them for food with a $100 million gift to @FeedingAmerica. Feeding America will quickly distribute the funds to their national network of food banks and food pantries, getting food to those countless families who need it,” Bezos said.

His announcement comes a day after Feeding America revealed in a press statement that an estimated $1.4 billion in additional resources will be needed over the next six months to provide enough food for those struggling with hunger nationwide.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2019 Household Food Insecurity in the United States report said more than 37 million people in the United States struggle with hunger. Feeding America said the impact of the coronavirus crisis could lead to an additional 17.1 million people experiencing food insecurity.

“The people we serve and the charitable food system in the United States are facing a ‘perfect storm,’ with surges in demand, declines in food donations and volunteers, and disruptions to normal operating procedures, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis,” Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, said. “It is all of our neighbors who now more than ever need help putting food on their tables.” 

Results of a preliminary impact analysis of the coronavirus crisis and CEO pulse surveys of the Feeding America food bank network conducted from March 19 to March 23 revealed the rising demand for food as the fallout from the crisis began.

The survey found that within a week of CDC guidelines on social distancing to reduce the spread of the virus, 41 percent of food banks were already reporting an immediate critical funding shortfall. Some 65 percent of food banks in the Feeding America network also reported an immediate need for disaster food boxes totaling 493 truckloads.  

Responding to Bezos’ donation Thursday, Babineaux-Fontenot noted it as the largest single donation in the organization’s history.

“We are deeply grateful for Jeff Bezos’ generous $100 million contribution to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. This donation, the largest single gift in our history, will enable us to provide more food to millions of our neighbors facing hardship during this crisis. Countless lives will be changed because of his generosity,” she said.

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