BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the number of people going hungry was at a 20-year low. But, that drastically changed once the virus hit and people started losing jobs.

“I’m trying to do each box as like if I was home cooking myself. So I’m trying to make sure they have everything they need to make a whole meal,” Natavia Davis said.

Natavia is a volunteer at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham. The food bank plays a life-saving role in Alabama, as they collect food, then send it out to 12 difference counties. It’s a tall order that’s become even more challenging since COVID hit.

Brett Meredity is in charge of the operation and he says some of this food is donated from local grocery stores and individuals. Some of it purchased by the food bank. All of it desperately needed.

“Obviously there’s been a huge change in the need. We’ve all seen it with unemployment the way it’s been,” Meredith said.

To give an idea of that huge change, the demand for this food sky-rocketed 126 percent in 2020. To meet the demand, Meredith said they had to change the way they operate a bit. They added a huge cooler so they could store more meat and even more produce.

“We’ve invested heavily in fresh produce and fresh produce boxes because we really think that makes a difference to health and the health of the family,” Meredith said. We are spending more of our dollars on things we may have never done before.”

Things like the family food boxes Natavia packs up. 1,800 boxes a week, available to anyone who needs it.

“Yes! There’s nothing wrong asking for help nowadays. They are scared to ask for help, but it’s always good to ask for help,” Natavia said.

If you need help with food or would like to donate time or food, click here.