ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, local food pantries were seeing an influx of donations.

But once it ended, that changed.

“Once the pandemic started to settle down, donations did level off,” said Peggy King, director of the Cornucopia Food Pantry.

However, “Our numbers [of needy people] are now starting to climb.”

While the donation rate decreased after the pandemic, the need for food donations has not as local food pantries have seen a 40% increase in those in need.

“Times are tough for everybody right now, and with inflation the way it is and donations are down and, you know, it’s difficult for us. There’s a lot of times where our shelves are kind of empty and there so this campaign is really, really going to help us and all of the other pantries in our coalition that are going to benefit from it,” King said.

The Rockford Mayor’s Hunger Campaign raised over $45,000 this year, which will fund the 9 food pantries of the Greater Rockford Pantry Coalition for one month. The campaign also alerts community members of the increased need.

Monty Wandling, of the Salvation Army, said, “It certainly brings attention. Maybe somebody who’s struggling and just keeps putting things on a credit card to get by and is racking up. A lot of them realize they’re not the only ones. Maybe it’s okay if I go get help, but then it also alerts those in the community who can give to realize like, Wow, I didn’t realize it was that bad. Maybe I can give a little more or what else can I do? Or can I get people together? How can I make a difference? So, I think it gives the alert in several ways when the mayor helps out with what he’s doing.”

All the money raised by the Mayor’s Hunger Campaign will be used by pantries to fill their shelves with supplies for those in need.