IN TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MILFORD – In an average shopping trip, Laura Eggleston, Milford Food Pantry director, might buy 1,100 pounds of food to serve their 39 households.
On Monday, April 13, she placed an order for 4,300 pounds. “In these last two weeks, we’ve served 56 families,” she said. “That’s 193 individuals.”
As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, food banks across the county are seeing “a dramatic uptick,” said Maj. Cheryl Compton, Salvation Army. “Everyone just paid rent and many of them haven’t gotten their unemployment this month.”
Many of them are new customers, noted Julia Perdue, Cooperstown Food Pantry director. “We served 29 new households last month,” she said. “In all, we served 219 families. That’s our highest since 2007.”
“We’ve already seen 15 new people this month,” said Joyce Mason, director, St. James Food Pantry. “And it’s going to get worse the longer this goes on.”
However, she noted, the evening feeding ministry, The Lord’s Table, has seen a decline in people coming for the take-out hot meals. “It’s a social thing for them,” she said. “People want to sit down, and not being able to do so is difficult for them, so they don’t come.”
In Richfield Springs, Polly Renckens has seen the same influx of new clients herself, but worries the poor weather – or fears about COVID-19 exposure or that food may have run out – is keeping some former clients away.
“We have plenty of food!” she assured. “If we don’t see some people soon, we’re going to start calling individually to check on them.”
At many of the pantries, visitors are given a “shopping list” where they can check off what they need and want. “Client choice maintains dignity and alleviates food waste,” said Purdue. “If we give someone something they don’t want, it’s just going to go to waste on a shelf.”
The groceries are packed and bagged by volunteers – in masks and gloves – and then taken curbside for the client to pick up, contact-free. “We make every effort to protect the safety of our volunteers and clients,” said Renckens.
And so that no one goes hungry, Stacie Haynes, executive director, Susquehanna SPCA, started
a pet food pantry to help families stretch their budgets in tight times. The pantry has
been placed outside of the shelter so that people can maintain social distancing.
But, she noted, if someone can’t get to the pantry, a volunteer will take the food to them.
And although the pantries are seeing a rise in need for the pantries, they’re also seeing a rise in donations.
“We’ve raised $1,000 in the last month,” said Eggleston. “A dollar buys $10 of food from the regional food bank.”
“People are donating anything they can,” said Mason. “And we’re getting a lot of help from organizations.”
Even between pantries, there’s sharing. “If I have an excess of anything, I call around to see who needs it,” said Mason. “That’s just how I do it. We have to help each other out.”
But however long this lasts, Eggleston assures people that the pantry will always be there to help their neighbors.
“As long as we have food, we’ll hand it out,” she said.