(WWLP) – Thousands across the country and western Massachusetts are facing food hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the nation, 86,460 people including 22,650 children did not have access to nutritious food to live a healthy life before the pandemic. Since the pandemic, studies have shown the numbers will gradually increase by 40,610, including 13,970 children. This means it’s possible about 127,090 people will experience food insecurity this year.

“As high unemployment persists, more households are at risk of hunger and food insecurity,” Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts said.

The data below displays local food insecurity and food costs in the United States:

 2020 Food Insecurity Percentage Numbers Percentage Change Number Change Children Percentage Children Numbers Children Percentage Change Child Percentage Change
MA TOTAL14%943,53053%326,15018%251,24081%112,480
 1 in 7   1 in 5   
W. Mass.15%127,09047%40,61023%36,62063%13,970
 1 in 7   1 in 4   

Map Meal Gap: Feeding America’s annual study

Based on the map shown, 19 percent more emergency food has been distributed at this same time in 2019 from March through April. All 175 food pantries in the region, meal sites, and The Food Bank are serving 20 percent more people due to recent unemployment members who’ve never received food assistance before. SNAP applications have now increased by 130 percent.

Those who are most affected by health inequities are African Americans who live in cities that are highly impacted by COVID-19 including Springfield and Holyoke.