If you’re one of the millions struggling with hunger or food insecurity as a result of the pandemic and economic downturn, there is help to be had. Food pantries and anti-hunger organizations have jumped into action and we’ve outlined some of the fastest ways to find food assistance in major U.S. cities.

The continued spread of coronavirus and the closing (and re-closing) of non-essential business has had devastating ripple effects across the economy and country at large. Not to mention an abrupt ending to the $600 per week unemployment supplement that so many had been relying on. One of those effects is increased hunger and general food insecurity as more and more folks find themselves without paychecks, unable to feed themselves or their families.

COVID-19Consider Donating to These Food Banks During the Crisis If you’re one of those folks—or suspect someone in your life is—there are resources to find very basic food essentials and hot meals. New York, for instance, which already has a robust network of food kitchens, announced that three meals a day will be provided for New Yorkers in need, available for pickup at over 400 locations throughout the city.

Full Cart is a non-profit helping deliver free or heavily-discounted groceries to folks around the country in need. Go here to apply for food assistance but note that Full Cart is currently managing record numbers of applications and will likely result in a waitlist. Below is some helpful information for finding food assistance in some of the largest and hardest-hit U.S. cities. We will continue to update this post with new information, but please seek out your local food bank or pantry to find out the latest information about operating hours and updated safety procedures.

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Just as importantly, if you are food stable and can afford it, consider making a donation to your local food bank. Most are stretched to some of the thinnest margins imaginable, with circumstances only expected to worsen, and donations of food or money now are integral. 

New York City

As one of the hardest-hit areas in the country, New York City has more folks out of work than anywhere else, including thousands of restaurant, retail, and hospitality industry workers. Back in April, all New Yorkers announces anyone can get three free meals per day at over 430 sites across the five boroughs amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Families and children can pick up their meals between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., and adults can pick up between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. To find a school in your area distributing food, call 311, check NYC.gov or text the word FOOD or COMIDA to 877-877 to find a location near you.


Chicago Food Bank, food pantries, and other programs remain open, and you can find a food program here. It is recommended to call before you go to confirm program hours and requirements. https://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/coronavirus-updates/

Los Angeles

Los Angelinos who need help putting food on the table during the coronavirus closures can get information from the Los Angeles Controller’s Office, according to the LA Daily News. The office published this information, along with a map about where the Los Angeles Unified School District is distributing free meals for children and where folks can find food pantries.

Related Reading: How to Shop for Groceries If You’re Concerned About Coronavirus

New Orleans 

Another city with an extremely high volume of restaurant and service workers were out of work, New Orleans food banks reached critical mass. A month ago the federal government agreed to release access to a stockpile of emergency food for this type of crisis, helping to stem the rising tide of food insecurity. If you’re in New Orleans and in need of a hot meal, visit the Second Harvest Food Bank or call 1-855-392-9338 to find out how to qualify for food assistance.


As the nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston has a substantial volume of food insecurity only worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak. Visit Houston Food Bank for an interactive map and more information on the city’s response to COVID-19 and continued efforts to feed hungry Houstonians.  


Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has put extensive resources behind making sure children and low-income families have enough to eat and this article outlines all the programs that state residents can take advantage of during the crisis.

San Jose

This map posted on the San Jose Mercury News website features more than 400 food distribution sites, including free meal pick-up locations for students and seniors, food banks, and restaurants that are open for take-out. San Jose and Santa Clara County residents can type in their address and get a list of all the nearest food distribution sites to their homes.


Like most cities, Philly has seen an uptick in demand for food banks, according to the Share Food Program, but one the city hopes it can meet. Visit their website to find out about the programs and if you qualify for assistance.

Las Vegas

CCSD will provide breakfast and lunch to students during the school closures. Head to the Three Square website for a complete list of sites and hours of operations. Seniors who are at least 60 years old in need of food assistance can call 702-765-4030 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to find out which resource is best for them. They can also provide more information for SNAP benefits and nearby pantries, as well as discuss home delivery options.


Washington was one of the hardest-hit states and is feeling the impact of the outbreak and economic shutdown. The Seattle Food Committee has put together a helpful map to locate food assistance in the city’s six districts. 


Atlanta Community Food Bank is offering a new feature to help families and senior citizens during the crisis. According to the news website, 11 Alive, a “Text for Help” feature identifies the three closest food pantries to you when you text “findfood” (no spaces) or “comida” (Spanish) to 888-976-2232. Texters will be prompted to give their zip code.

Washington D.C.

The Capital City has a large portion of its population living below the poverty line and COVID-19 has thrown it deeper into economic and food insecurity. If you’re in D.C. and looking for a hot meal check with Capital Area Food Bank or see this list of more food assistance programs in the area.

Header image courtesy of SDI Productions / Getty Images.

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