Feeding America has released a new report predicting that nearly 1 million people across the state could experience food insecurity because of the economic impact of the pandemic. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with the President and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, Catherine D'Amato, about the projections and how people can help. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: That number — a million facing food insecurity — represents a big increase. Here in Eastern Mass. alone, we're looking at a jump of about 60 percent, according to projections from Feed America. That is a huge strain on the system.

Catherine D'Amato: It is indeed a huge strain. Feeding America, which is the national network of over about 200 food banks in the U.S., including the Greater Boston Food Bank, is predicting a 59 percent increase from COVID-19. This is recent reports, but the dramatic impact is saying pre-COVID that it was one in 13 people, and we're now looking at one in eight or one in seven children in eastern Massachusetts. The numbers are slightly worse when you look at the whole state.

Mathieu: In Suffolk County, one in six people overall [are] food insecure. How does that manifest itself at your sites and how many more volunteers does that require?

D'Amato: Well, the good fortune is we have a very strong agency network served by the Greater Boston Food Bank throughout the nine counties in eastern Massachusetts; 190 cities and towns are represented with community organizations, pantries, community meal programs, mobile markets [and] school based pantries, these kinds of programs that are available with food on a regular basis to their community.

So what is happening, given the historic nature of this particular pandemic, is we're seeing over 50 percent new people showing up in pantries. Those who are recently unemployed due to business closures or being furloughed, or individuals that have probably never been to a food bank. The pantries know their clients very well, so they're seeing a large number of people that are coming for the first time to seek food assistance. And when people are food insecure, which has been a normal fact in our country for a long time, this pandemic is simply doubling down [and] creating more need, more families trying to just get through their day, their week [and] their month, given they no longer are employed here in America.

Mathieu: You just had the largest two distribution months in the food bank's 40-year history — 8 million pounds, then 9 million pounds even more than that. When you talk about people walking in the door for the first time [and] when you see people walk in for the first time asking for food, I'm sure they thought they'd never be there.

D'Amato: Absolutely. We expect the month of May to be even greater than the first two months you spoke about. It'll be well over 10 million pounds. So these families are in shock, like many families are. Whether you're facing the loss of housing, the loss of a loved one [or] the loss of a job, there's just a great deal of sadness and pain for our citizens right now. Now, the good news is there's a lot of people jumping in to help, whether it be our philanthropy, individuals donating money or food and or if it's the government. But the families that we're seeing are indeed just embarrassed. They never imagined that they would be in this situation to seek help.

The good news is there's a lot of help and there are places where people can go. Listeners can go to GBFB.org, click on "Need Food" and you'll be able to search by your zip code and find the local food organization in your community. You can also call 211 if you're across the state and ask for assistance. They'll guide you through the services across the state. And again, Project Bread's Food Source and Hotline, which is listed at GBFB.org, can walk you through a SNAP application or point you into the local site for your school, if you happen to have a school child. There are 1,300 sites across the state that have emergency food.

Mathieu: It strikes me as I listened to you talk about this, Catherine, that feeding people is a form of therapy.

D'Amato: Well, it's a basic need, right? We need food to survive. It is how we gather. Look at the devastation to the restaurant community. And eastern Massachusetts is very rich with the culinary hospitality industry. It's the way we sit down with families. I grew up in an Italian family and if you weren't at Sunday dinner at Grandma's, there was hell to pay there. But all of that translates to our families and how we gather, how we speak to each other and how we share stories. And when that is at risk, that basic need to supply food for your family, then children are at enormous risk [and] elders are at risk. We care and love for each other often through food, and food insecurity, which has been in the shadows for years and years, is now emerged as a truth in our country that's always been there. But I do appreciate that you're willing to talk about it because it's hitting so many Americans. A 59 percent increase in Eastern Mass. alone is shocking and it's going to be with us for a long time.

Mathieu: Well, let's do more than talk about it before you leave us, Catherine. What if people want to help? What if people want to volunteer? Where should they go or where should they look?

D'Amato: Sure. You can act even though in these times you might feel very isolated or inable to do anything. So the primary need for the Greater Boston Food Bank is financial resources. That's what keeps the system moving. It keeps our ability to put out hundreds of thousands of pounds and millions and millions of meals a year. So you can give at GBFB.org.

If you want to volunteer, we can help you with that, too. You just need to be healthy and be safe. If you're coming into our building, you will be asked a series of questions. And we will also, if you want to stay in your community, we can point you to the right organization that also needs your help. So I would just say don't be complacent, do something and we all have the power to do something.