New York (CNN) — When the Arizona Food Bank Network received a call that Taylor Swift wanted to make a hefty donation to the charity as she kicked off her Eras tour in the state, some staffers thought it was a prank.
But it was no joke. The megastar, who is raking in big bucks from her blockbuster concerts, has been giving back to communities where she plays. From Georgia to Michigan to Texas to California and in between, food banks have benefited.
In Arizona, Swift’s donation in March allowed the network to send several tractor-trailers filled with 40,000 pounds of fresh produce to its member food banks, said Terri Shoemaker, a spokesperson at the nonprofit organization. Plus, it bolstered funding for programs aimed at combating hunger, such as helping eligible children gain access to free and reduced-price school meals and senior citizens obtain food stamps.
“Taylor Swift’s donation certainly helped at a time when we’re seeing the need climb and climb and climb,” Shoemaker told CNN.
Food banks around the country are contending with increased demand, higher costs and tighter supplies of donated food. Last year, about one in six people turned to hunger relief programs for support, according to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, pantries and meal programs. Many food banks say need has increased in 2023, driven in part by the end of a pandemic enhancement to food stamps nationwide earlier this year.
Seattle-based Food Lifeline, which received a donation from Swift when she played in the city in late July, will likely use the funds to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as food popular in ethnic communities, said spokesperson Mark Coleman.
The nonprofit organization must now purchase a lot more of the groceries it distributes since the amount of donated food it receives has plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic. This comes at a time when monetary contributions have fallen back to pre-pandemic levels, Coleman said.
But demand has skyrocketed. The charity now provides 280,000 meals a day and serves 1.1 million people. That’s up from 125,000 meals and between 600,000 and 700,000 people prior to the pandemic.
The food banks declined to reveal the size of Swift’s gifts. Her representative did not return a request for comment.
Increased attention to hunger
Swift’s donations not only help the food banks buy more groceries, but the publicity surrounding the gifts adds to the awareness of food insecurity in the United States, the charities say.
Last month, the singer donated to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, which works with more than 400 partners to feed 500,000 people each month, ahead of her stop in Santa Clara, California. A flurry of other contributions followed over the next week, jumping 43% from the same period a year earlier, said Shobana Gubbi, the food bank’s chief philanthropy officer.
Three Square Food Bank, which serves Las Vegas and southern Nevada, saw an uptick both in donations and interest in its mission after Swift’s largesse during the tour.
“It is really meaningful to get a gift from someone who, like Taylor Swift, has the ability to bring so much attention to our cause and to the work that we’re doing,” said Beth Martino, CEO of the nonprofit group, which last year served nearly 36 million meals through its network of community partners.