By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — During the holiday season, people typically look to schools, churches, grocery stores and other community events to donate food to those in need.

But ahead of Thanksgiving, food banks are swamped with increased demand due to the continued fallout from the pandemic with millions unemployed and a greater amount of food-insecure individuals and families in need.

The nationwide hunger relief charity Feeding America predicted that one in six Americans — around 54 million people — will experience food insecurity amid the ongoing public health crisis. The organization reported that 80% of food banks are serving more people than they were the same time last year.

For people looking to help with the nonprofit’s network of 200 food banks, there are new alternatives to lend a hand for food drives this holiday season.

Host a virtual food drive

Don’t worry about leaving the house to lug canned and boxed goods to a collection box. This option is perfect for anyone hosting a holiday gathering online this year.

Feeding America has the option to set up an online fundraising page with a local food bank, and the creator can simply ask friends and family to contribute.

Once donations are completed, every donor receives a receipt, and funds go directly toward food banks.

The virtual option helps alleviate what traditional food drives would cost. Plus, with COVID-19 restrictions, some food banks may not accept food donations from the community due to safety concerns.

The organization suggests including the fundraiser link and information in the invitation of your virtual gathering.

“This is a simple way to let everyone know that you’re doing something really special this year. Even if your guests can’t join, it allows them to give back,” Feeding America wrote in a blog post.

Check out the online toolkit that shares advice and social posts for setting up fundraisers with Feeding America.

Donate Thanksgiving food to a local food bank

Locate a local food bank, and check their drop-off information, operation hours and busiest hours.

Some areas may not accept food donations or may have specific requests, so follow local food bank guidance on what is needed most this holiday.

With higher demand around the holidays, food banks will look for the following healthy, non-perishable foods:

  • Boxed stuffing
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Canned vegetables
  • Dry macaroni
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Canned pumpkin

For more information or to locate your local food bank, click here.

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