As the coronavirus keeps people away from school, work and wages, food pantries are seeing a bigger demand while trying to adapt to social distancing protocols.
The Hunger Coalition in Blaine County served a record number of people at its food distribution on Monday afternoon. The Bellevue food pantry had 131 families show up that day, but this time they didn’t leave their cars.
Usually set up like a grocery store where people can browse the aisles for staples, The Hunger Coalition is now implementing a new method — pre-packaged food boxes — to keep staff and community members safe, and to slow the spread of the virus.
“There’ll be staff and volunteers going out to people’s cars, seeing what size family they have and then bringing out a comparable-size box,” said Kristin McMahon of The Hunger Coalition.
Other food relief programs around the state are taking similar measures. Metro Meals on Wheels of the Treasure Valley delivers to senior centers in Ada County and directly to seniors’ homes. But with senior centers closing temporarily, it started curbside pickup outside the buildings, the organization’s director Grant Jones told Morning Edition Host George Prentice.
“We just have to make sure during these difficult and trying times that all of the seniors have food,” Jones said.
On the first day of curbside food pickup in Boise, 11 people showed up, Jones said. Normally close to 100 people would come to eat in the senior dining room. Meals on Wheels has also started to leave bags of food on people’s door handles to minimize face to face contact. To keep the safety checks on the seniors going, volunteers wait for people to answer the door.
Food delivery programs like these rely on a steady flow of volunteers, and making adjustments to services requires more work. The Hunger Coalition put a call out for additional volunteers on social media, and got an overwhelming response from the Blaine County community. Now it has an on-call list of those willing to help out.
The Hunger Coalition said it will continue drive-in meal deliveries three times a week “for as long as it is safe.” McMahon said some people picking up food were anticipating layoffs and lost wages due to business closures from the coronavirus.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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