When Burwinkel Farms in Ohio put out its annual donation jar for a food pantry, they noticed something different. Customers were giving even more generously than in past summers, donating $5, $10 and $20 at a time. Donations are at an all-time high.

Everyone is feeling the pain of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic. The impact goes beyond the virus itself to many job losses and also the mental strain of living with this silent menace. That pain we share can also bring out the best in us, as it is with the customers at Burwinkel Farms. This generosity, compassion and caring is what will ultimately see us through this crisis.

For if everyone does something to help others, we have a much greater power than any virus.

Wearing a face mask in public is a great act of caring because you are making the effort to protect others. We know through scientific research that masks dramatically lessen the chance of spreading the virus to another person. By putting on a mask, you are showing you will do whatever it takes to save people from the coronavirus. You only have to wear them in public and around others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield says, “If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground.”

Wearing a mask, keeping social distance, and washing hands are all small acts to keep from getting coronavirus.

Donating to food banks is another act of caring that will get us through the economic crisis. The layoffs from the closings to stop the spread of the coronavirus has increased the need for food banks.

Even before the coronavirus, there were 37 million Americans living in hunger. That number is projected to increase by 17 million people. The Feeding America network of food banks is overwhelmed with demand. So they need people to help them with donations. The Congress must show compassion, too, by expanding the food stamp (SNAP) program to give Americans more purchasing power at grocery stores.

“COVID-19 is taking a toll on Americans, threatening food security, health and economic well-being in the short term and long term,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “Government needs to act now to limit the depth and duration of the hardship. The Senate should act immediately to boost SNAP benefits, to address food hardship and to get our economy moving.”

Funding mobile pantries and grocery delivery will help bring nutritious fruits and vegetables to food deserts, where people lack access to grocery stores. Hunger in America is a public health crisis in itself. We can’t afford people to grow weak and hungry during a pandemic.

Overseas hunger in worsening in countries that were already reeling from war and climate change. Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Congo, Burkina Faso and many others are facing a deadly combination of severe hunger and coronavirus.

We can help them by donating to hunger-relief charities or even playing the online game FreeRice that raises donations for the UN World Food Program. Bread for the World and Catholic Relief Services are asking people to write letters to Congress about increasing food aid at home and overseas. Tell them how much you care.

The cure for coronavirus and the economic crisis is already inside each of us. It is compassion and taking action to care for others.

William Lambers is the author of “Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace, and Ending World Hunger.”

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