Americans have dramatically increased their giving to free food programs since Covid-19 hit, while still maintaining their donations to charities in general, according to Fidelity Charitable.

Grants made through Fidelity's donor-advised fund to free food programs soared 667% during the first four months of 2020 compared to 2019, and in 38 states giving to human services charities, such as food banks and homeless shelters, topped the giving categories. In 2019 those charities were the top recipients in only six states, Fidelity said Friday.

Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity, analyzed its nearly 140,000 donors’ giving patterns for the first four months of 2020 to determine how the pandemic changed people’s giving habits through donor advised funds. The results were reported in “Communities in Crisis: How Donors Are Responding to Covid-19.”

“We are heartened to see that our donors rallied to increase support for the most immediate needs caused by this pandemic, while continuing the same level of support for charities they have always cared about,” said Pamela Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable. “Support for all charities is good news for a nonprofit sector struggling to deliver their services at a time of strained resources and increased need. We continue to challenge our donors to support charities throughout the year.”

“As the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the world in the first four months of this year, donors dramatically increased their support in response to breakdowns in the medical system and mass unemployment,” the report said. “Yet they did not waver in their support of the nonprofit sector as a whole and maintained normal levels of support for other charitable causes in areas such as arts and culture, the environment, and animals and religion. Only education saw a slight decline.”

Overall grant-making increased in all regions of the United States by 28%. About half of the grant dollars went to charities within a donor’s home state, which was similar to 2019.

“However, grants specifically designated for Covid-19 response deviated from those patterns. Areas experiencing higher caseloads of Covid-19, such as New York, kept more of their pandemic-designated support closer to home,” the report said. “In other areas of the country that were less hard hit, a greater percentage of Covid-19-designated support went to nonprofits out-of-state, indicating they may have been directed to help harder hit areas.”