SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- Food insecurity is a serious problem at the best of times, especially in the Maritimes. But the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed even more Canadians into uncertainty and hunger, as many struggle to feed their families.

Community groups across the Maritimes are ramping up their efforts as they see an increase in demand for their services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edris Bernard would normally be taking her daughter to school, but with schools closed, she says many families are under increasing pressure when it comes to keeping food on the table.

“It’s hard to know exactly from week-to-week what you’re going to have for supper, or even snacks,” says Bernard. “Because the kids are home and they’re just eating and eating, and you don’t want to say no.”

Not far away, Saint John’s North End Food Bank is serving clients. Demand is increasing and food banks across the region are waiting to see whether corporate donations and government money will trickle down to the front lines.

“So we’re all just waiting to see how we can best use whatever ends up our way, and make sure we help all those that we can help,” says Lauren Wiezel, a volunteer at the North End Food Bank.

Feed Nova Scotia is bracing for the future. So far, the food supply for Nova Scotia’s food banks is holding up, but the group says they’re hearing from food banks across the province that are facing a higher demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, Bee-Me-Kidz in Saint John has delivered about 600 food boxes in the community, trying to meet the growing demand.

“Just a lot of families, now their kids are home all day, and instead of providing just dinner, they’re providing breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Missy Bewick of Bee-Me-Kidz. “And when you’re home, you eat a lot more than if you are outside, doing activities and being busy.”

Few groups know more about food insecurity than the Romero House soup kitchen.

“I know here on a really slow day a month or two ago, it would have been 150 people. Now a slow day is 220 or 250,” says Evelyn McNulty of the Romero House Soup Kitchen.

McNulty says what’s troubling is the number of new faces looking for help.

“In the last two or three weeks, I have seen people I have never see before, and people who are coming after house and coming to the window and looking really unsure of themselves and what’s going on,” says McNulty.

“I mean the things you take for granted, I promise at the end of this, I will not take so much for granted. Whether it’s just going out for a walk, or knowing what the next meal is going to be,” says Edris Bernard.

One of the challenges of the pandemic is that no one knows how long it is going to last. So community groups have a real problem trying to plan ahead, because of the uncertainty of the demand going forward.