The coronavirus pandemic sent many in Nevada from a steady job with a paycheck to the unemployment rolls. Unemployment in Nevada went from 3.6 percent in February to 30.1 percent in April after Gov. Steve Sisolak closed all casinos, bars, restaurants, and other nonessential businesses on March 17. The photos of an empty Las Vegas Strip during the high season for tourists told the story of a city that lost its top industry.
While some casinos, such as Wynn Las Vegas, the Venetian, and Station Casinos, continued to pay staff who were furloughed, a majority of employees turned to unemployment to keep afloat. In April, that number hit 429,746 Nevadans in a state with 3.08 million residents. And while many restaurants began offering takeout and delivery, that didn’t keep them staffed at normal levels.
The crisis left many wondering how they would feed their families and others pondering how they could help. Food banks across the city responded, dipping into reserve funds to push out more food. Clark County School District, the fifth largest in the country, offered daily food pickup sites at 15 schools to help keep children fed. Restaurants pitched in with new food services that deliver to those in need, especially the elderly and immunocompromised.
By June, when Sisolak allowed casinos to reopen for business, the unemployment rate for Nevada fell 10.3 percentage points to 15 percent, but the state’s unemployment rate still stands at 12.6 percent in September. Not all casinos and restaurants reopened yet.
The amount of help needed — from where to find food to where to help donate — is overwhelming. To that end, Eater Vegas created this guide of resources for where to give, what to give, and how to volunteer in and around Southern Nevada, along with where to find food and meals.
Editors have done their best to vet the groups included here, but it’s always important to make sure each organization aligns with one’s values, with a transparent, proven track record. When in doubt, giving cash is always a good call, because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. Alternatively, it never hurts to reach out and ask, for those who are still unsure on the best way to contribute. Visit Eater.com for more resources on how to help national action campaigns.
Mutual Aid Groups
Mutual aid groups are a political organizational movement that help fellow community members access basic needs for neighbors. These loose-knit groups are making a comeback around the world during the pandemic as people band together in order to aid neighbors in their community and to help advocate for social justice. These online portals allow those in need connect with those who can help, and vice versa. Below, one mutual aid group found in Las Vegas. For those in need, or who want to donate money or items for the food bank, the group has a Google doc for quickly connecting.
Las Vegas DSA Mutual Aid: This arm of the Democratic Socialists offers social and racial justice for all. The mutual aid group offers a food bank with non-perishable food, frozen food, hygiene products, menstruation products, school supplies, sanitizer, masks, and more.
Volunteer Opportunities and Donations
Most of the organizations that offer food banks and pantries also accept donations and volunteer opportunities.
Three Square Food Bank: The largest food bank in Southern Nevada relies on volunteers to sort and pack food and work at weekend events. Individuals and groups can volunteer. The organization is accepting monetary donations or encourages an online virtual food drive.
Helping Hands of Las Vegas: The food bank for seniors accepts donations of paper goods such as toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins as well as non-perishable food items at a warehouse office in North Las Vegas. Donations are always accepted as well. Volunteers can deliver for the food pantry or Meals on Wheels items or help in the food pantry.
Las Vegas Rescue Mission: The homeless shelter and food pantry accepts donations (it costs $2.17 to provide a meal for one). The center also has volunteer opportunities during daily shifts for meal services, the thrift store, and more.
Delivering With Dignity: Volunteer delivery drivers can pick up food packages from restaurants and deliver them directly to the doorsteps of individuals and families in need. All donations for Delivering with Dignity go directly to The Moonridge Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.
Hope for the City: The non-denomenational church needs volunteers to help with the food pantry.
Hunger Relief: Food Banks, Food Rescue, and Food Pantries
Food Banks, Food Rescues, and Distribution Organizations
City Impact Center: This full-service food bank provides packaged foods, fresh produce, meat, milk, and prepared meals. The food pantry is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Helping Hands of Las Vegas: This food bank serves senior citizens in North Las Vegas. Qualified seniors over age 60 can receive a free bag of food once a month. The organization also offers a food delivery program during the coronavirus pandemic.
Three Square Food Bank: The largest food bank in Southern Nevada offers food pantries and meals to those who need food. The organization offers distribution centers across Southern Nevada that include Clark County School District sites that serve breakfast and lunch to school-aged children, and nine local agency partners. Distribution sites and locations change regularly, but Three Square updates its site in real time.
Soup Kitchens, Pantries, and Shelters
Calvary Downtown Outreach: This food pantry in North Las Vegas serves anyone living in a house or apartment that can provide valid proof of residency in certain ZIP codes. Visit the website for restrictions.
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada: Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada provides food and nutrition to individuals and families in need through the Meals on Wheels program and daily meals prepared on site. The food pantry is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registered clients can pick up a bag of food once a month. The organization’s St. Vincent Lied Dining Facility offers a boxed lunch daily from 10 to 11 a.m.
Hope for the City: This non-denominational church offers a food pantry at locations across the city.
Just One Project: Southern Nevada’s largest mobile food pantry offers more than 13,000 people fresh groceries, a total of more than 250,000 pounds of food every month. There are no requirements to be served.
Las Vegas Rescue Mission: The city’s largest soup kitchen and homeless shelter feeds up to 1,000 people a day. The organization’s 10,800-square-foot dining and training facility seats up to 200 people at one time. During the coronavirus pandemic, the organization started offering bagged meals during a daily community meal from 5 to 6 p.m., available to the public. The organization also offers a produce giveaway every Thursday, emergency food boxes for families in need who have just moved to Southern Nevada from out of state, and a free bread pantry weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
UNLV Food Pantry: This food bank serves UNLV students, faculty, and staff. Visit the website for hours, which change weekly.
Community Organizations Providing Food Access
Chefs4Vegas: This nonprofit collects food from distributors to feed residents at community centers and churches
Clark County School District Food Distribution: Low-income families can pick up breakfast and lunch for school-aged children at one of 15 schools across Southern Nevada. Children must be present to participate.
Delivering with Dignity: This food delivery service from restaurants provides prepared meals to the most vulnerable seniors and other high-risk residents who cannot leave their homes in the middle of this pandemic.
Nevada Department of Agriculture Emergency Food Assistance Program: Low-income families can register for assistance from this state agency.
Worker and Restaurant Relief
Restaurant Employee Relief Fund: UNLV alum Guy Fieri created the fund with the National Restaurant Association that awards $500 grants to restaurant workers who have been impacted by COVID-19.
Nobody Goes Hungry: Titan Brands Hospitality Group created a fund to ensure that hospitality workers don’t go hungry.
Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.