Children have been sent home from school and parents are home from work — what will they eat?
Many local churches and food pantries normally turn normally to the Food Bank of East Alabama, but employees of the food bank are worried about coronavirus COVID-19, just like the rest of the world.
Some of the agencies the food bank supports are wanting to cut back hours or face-to-face contact, said Martha Henk, executive director of the Food Bank of East Alabama.
“A number of them are expressing concern to us about interacting with a wide variety of folks, people coming to the congregate meal sites or coming to food pantries,” Henk said. “And so many of them are starting to look at how they will have an alternative way of getting food distributed or delivered.”
Auburn Methodist Church will provide prepacked boxes of food for those in need, rather than having individuals pick out items, she said.
There will likely be more individuals in need during this time of the coronavirus, Henk said, with children not in school and adults who are seeing less hours at work.
“There’s going to be a greater need for food support for some people living on the edge anyway,” she said. “So right at the time that we see an increase for food assistance is probably the time that some of our agencies may feel the need to kind of back off a little bit.”
The Community Market of East Alabama, an agency of the food bank, released a statement on Facebook Tuesday that it will change its procedures.
“People coming for food assistance will receive a prepacked box of assorted dry products as well as a box of perishable food,” the post said.
“At this time, there will not be any client choice shopping from the shelves.”
The Food Bank of East Alabama is also running short on volunteers due to Auburn University switching to remote lectures and the coronavirus.
“We rely heavily on Auburn University students as part of our volunteer force, IMPACT and other groups as well,” Henk said. “So we’re going to see an immediate decline both here at the food bank and also over at the community market.”
Anyone who wishes donated should wash their hands before collecting the food, the food bank shared in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.
“As the coronavirus continues to shut down pieces of our lives, we ask that you remember those who already have precious little food options and choices in how, when, and what they eat — including children who wont’ have access to breakfast and lunch while school is out,” the post stated.
There will be a bin out front to allow people to drop off donations without coming inside, Henk added.
Other local groups are trying to fill in the gaps that the Food Bank may not be able to cover by itself.
Our House is a after-school program for children in need. Children who don’t have anywhere to go can come to Our House for food, homework help, fun and a Bible Study. It has converted its ‘little free library’ into a makeshift food pantry
René Waldrop, director of Our House, converted the little free library into the food pantry last Saturday. She has been keeping it stocked with non-perishable foods like mac n’ cheese, fruit pouches, beef jerky, ritz crackers, and more.
“We are very aware of the fact that many of our neighbors struggle with food insecurity, so we decided to introduce the pantry during spring break when they would not be getting breakfast and lunch at school,” she said. “It’s stock with high protein and filling snacks — like beef jerky, peanut butter crackers and fruit.”
Waldrop said she is choosing foods that she knows children like, because otherwise, they won’t eat them.
This particular food box is meant for children, she said, not adults.
“The healthy snacks are helping to tie the kids over until their next meal,” Waldrop said.