Food banks switch to drive-by and curbside service in the face of COVID-19

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/20/2020 3:45:17 PM

Food banks across the region are developing plans to meet extra needs while protecting volunteers and beneficiaries as the COVID-19 epidemic closes schools and businesses. Few coordinators had received new requests for help since COVID-19 closures began to affect work and school schedules, but many had received questions about donating and volunteering.

End 68 Hours of Hunger packed three weekends’ worth of food for the 160 ConVal students they serve, coordinator Carol Cleary said on Wednesday.

“We’re prepared to pack again next week if we can,” she said.

Right now, the organization’s stocks are “completely depleted,” Cleary said, but gave credit to the ConVal School District for putting together a food distribution program so quickly.

“It’s a massive operation, something they’ve never done before,” she said.

“We’re not operating as usual by any stretch of the imagination,” Cleary said.

One volunteer regularly buys 200 boxes of cereal a week from local stores, and a store attendant recently asked her whether she was hoarding food, she said. Given the concerns about food hoarding, as well as mitigating the spread of the virus, Cleary said the organization is seeking monetary donations rather than in-kind donations.

“We can stretch those dollars so far through Cisco and the New Hampshire Food Bank,” she said.

It costs about $2,000 a week to run End 68 at current capacity, she said. In-kind donations can be placed in donation bins throughout Peterborough, Dublin, and Temple, Cleary said, and they’re especially looking for soup.

The Peterborough Food Pantry is reopening on Friday after closing on Monday, Executive Director Kathy Boss said. The Food Pantry opted to close on Monday in part to protect their volunteers, many of which are over 70 and therefore at high risk for contracting the virus.

“We’re looking for patience from the public as we sort it all out,” she said.

They plan to offer drive-up service to existing customers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 to noon going forward starting on Friday, March 20, she said.

“The offers of help are great,” Boss said.

Potential volunteers or donors, particularly healthy, younger people, should reach out on the Food Pantry’s Facebook page, she said.

“We’re doing OK for food right now,” she said, but the food pantry will be making calls for specific items when they need them.

Easily packable items, like tuna fish, would be best, for now, she said, and the donation barrel at Shaw’s is the best place for drop-offs. People in need who are not existing customers should contact their town’s welfare office or the Food Pantry, she said.

The Got Lunch program, run by the Rindge Congregational Church, received offers to help bag the groceries, donate items and drive the deliveries since the statewide school closure was announced on Sunday, representative Sarah Schultz said. Although they’re grateful, the organization has been simultaneously trying to comply with CDC social recommendations, including limiting the size of working groups at any given time.

“It has been an incredibly goosebump- filled few days to say the least,” Schultz said of the community response since the statewide school closure was announced. “We even have a local baker offering a designated bake day to put product into our bags.”

“Someone just texted me and said they had some extra toilet paper to give out to guests,” Lucille Decker said on Wednesday. “I’m just so pleased.”

Decker works with Jaffrey’s Compassion Food Pantry, which now has guests fill out their food orders on a form rather than going inside. The hours and selections remain the same, Decker said, and that they would appreciate donations of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other toiletries.

The Antrim-Bennington Food Pantry has requested additional donations to make up for the 3,000 non-perishable items they usually receive from Boy Scout Troop 2’s semi-annual food drive, which was canceled this year. The pantry has indefinitely suspended activity on Tuesday nights but continues to serve residents from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays on a drive-through basis. The Pantry is in need of basic staples including canned fruits and vegetables, spaghetti sauce, tuna, cereal, jelly, and macaroni and cheese, according to a Wednesday post on the organization’s Facebook page.

The Jaffrey Food Pantry has converted operations to curbside pickup, organizer Kathleen LaRou said.

“Everybody stays in their car in the parking lot, one volunteer gets their name, then they drive up to sliding door, different volunteers put a ready-made bag in their car,” she said, and that unfortunately the pantry can’t offer choices in food right now, but their offerings on Tuesday included eggs, bread, and some fresh grapefruit.

“Anyone from anywhere can come, we just want people to be fed,” she said.

LaRou directed families to the newly formed Jaffrey-Rindge Resources Facebook page that gives residents information on emerging social programs in the area. LaRou said the pantry currently needs paper bags, hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, fruits, soap, and deodorant. Donations can be left at the front entrance of the United Church of Jaffrey or the parish hall, she said. The church is still coordinating Meals on Wheels, she said, but the on-site community meals have been canceled.

The Faith Food Pantry in Temple is scheduled to hold their regular hours twice a month, but will be boxing food and giving it out rather than allowing shopping, chairperson Maureen Cullinan said. She’s received additional requests for service since the COVID-19 related closures began, she said, including a person affected by the temporary closure of the Peterborough Food Pantry. The pantry is accepting donations of any kind, Cullinan said. In addition to non-perishables, the pantry can freeze donations of meat. and directed individuals interested in donating to call the church office at 878-4177 to coordinate a pickup. The pantry is located at the Parish House in Temple, and is open the third Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. -12 p.m., and the first Wednesday of every month, 5-7 p.m.

The Open Cupboard Food Pantry in Wilton is also operating on a curbside system, coordinator Linda Ladouceur said.

“In the interest of social distancing we felt it would be best to not have people close together,” she said, and users can place an order and staff will bring it outside for them.

FOODPANTRIES

Antrim Bennington FoodPantry: Open Saturdays from 10-12, and Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. Antrim Baptist Church, Antrim. 588-6614. All are welcome.

Faith FoodPantry: Open the third Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. -12 p.m., and the first Wednesday of every month, 5-7 p.m., Parish House, Temple. 878-4177. No appointment needed. All welcomed.

Greenfield CCC FoodPantry: Open Saturdays from 9-12,Greenfield Congregational Covenant Church. 547-3626. All are welcome.

Jaffrey FoodPantry :Open Tuesdays 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Wednesdays 6 – 7:30 p.m. United Church of Jaffrey, 54 Main St., Jaffrey. 532-8005.

Compassion FoodPantry: 12-1:30 Mondays. Jaffrey Assembly of God, 48 Stratton Road. 532-6131.

Open Cupboard FoodPantry: Monday through Friday by appointment, Wilton Falls Building, Wilton. 809-6114. Serves the surrounding area.

The Peterborough FoodPantry: Open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 a.m. - 12 noon, Peterborough Community Center, Peterborough. 924-3008. Serving residents from Conval, Jaffrey-Rindge, and Mascenic school districts.

The Rindge FoodPantry: Open Thursdays 2 - 6 p.m. 1102 NH Route 119 (rear), Rindge. All are welcome. 899-5031.

St. Vincent DePaul FoodPantry: Open Monday – Thursday by appointment. At Sacred Heart Church, 15 High Street, Greenville. 878-0518, leave name and phone number.


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