LEXINGTON, Ky. — 2020 saw record levels of food insecurity. It continues even into this year, not only across the country but in Kentucky as well.

Volunteers at Bethel Harvest Church are helping combat that food gap. Every week, they pack pounds of food and distribute to families.

“We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs,” said Kathee Norris, director of the food bank at the church. “When it comes to giving out food, we’ve seen a big increase of needing food. and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger because there’s a need out there.”

Norris said in December, they served more than 15,000 pounds of food.

“If you look at our 2019 figures to our 2020 figures we have increased about 31 percent,” Norris said.

The increase is also felt in the commonwealth. Here in Kentucky, more than 600,000 people struggle with hunger, according to data from Feeding America.

“What we really see not only in Bethel, but churches as a whole right now it’s a great challenge,” said Marion Dalton, founding Pastor of Bethel Harvest Church.

He said the need is greater now more so than ever.

“Because we have families, we have situations and circumstances as well as those we’ve been ministering to and then the increase of ministry opportunity you know it’s practically doubled church wide,” Dalton said.

For nearly three decades, Dalton has led sermons and found ways to help communities. The COVID-19 pandemic is a new arena of challenges.

“It’s also a time that we’re asked to do more but the income’s less,” Dalton.

During the statewide shutdowns last year, the church closed the day care. Dalton said that temporary closures took a six-figure hit, income they rely on to conduct their ministry work.

“We were experiencing great growth in 2018, 2019, so you budget for this awesome cool stuff you continuing to do but all of a sudden you lose this huge part of the income plus now we’re keeping people on helping them, blessing them that were working and we’re trying to find ways food to em, find medical care, to help keep rent up and going,” Dalton said.

But they are finding ways. Dalton said he’s relying on his faith to pave a path and continue giving to back one person at a time.

Norris said they travel to area grocery stores 16 times a week to collect food items to distribute.