Karen Pooley, a director at Mitchell Food Pantry, said the organization had seen an approximately 25 percent decrease in usage in April and May after the kitchen was forced to close its space to shop inside stores to help prevent the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 300,000 people throughout the world since the beginning of 2020.
Pooley said the decline in people coming to get food for their dining table was unexpected.
“We are increasing our inventory to get ready for this,” Pooley said. “I don’t know why we fell.”
Pooley says there are a number of theories about why kitchen use is falling, although he says the full picture is unclear. Some people think that federal COVID-19 stimulus checks sent have reduced the need for affordable food choices, even though he thinks the scenario is not possible. Maybe it has something to do with the way the kitchen has had to change the procedure in the last few months.
Pooley said the pantry, which moved from its former home on First Avenue in Mitchell to part of the Slumberland building on North Rowley Street in February, had only just begun to settle in its new location when it was forced to close its doors directly. shopping March 11. It changed the way the kitchen gets food into the hands of people who need it, he said.
Pantry usually operates in a client choice format, which allows those who need food to come to the pantry and choose a number of items designated from their own shelves. But with the kitchen space closed to the general public, Pooley said volunteers received calls from clients, collected food boxes based on family size, and brought boxes out to the parking lot for collection.
The disadvantage of this new system is that clients cannot choose the specific items they want, but volunteers do the best they can to collect boxes of food that appeal to families of various sizes.
Staff at the Mitchell Food Pantry, which usually serves between 1,000 and 1,200 people every month, have even set aside some of the usual protocols to make it easier for clients to take food. They have temporary deferred requirements such as showing photo identification to qualify for assistance. Pooley said the pantry encouraged anyone in a tight financial place who needed help to get nutritious food to call them at 990-3663 and a volunteer would help guide them through the new process. Information can also be found on the pantry Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mitchellfoodpantry.
“Just call. We will ask whatever questions we have to do, but we clearly don’t meet the conditions as close as before,” Pooley said.
While the decline in usage is unexpected and unusual, Pooley said donations to the pantry have been stable and have even increased since the outbreak. County Fair and Coborn have both made generous donations, he said, and each donor has also stepped up to ensure kitchen shelves are available in times of crisis.
“The donation is up, whether it’s food or money,” Pooley said.
And volunteerism has also remained stable, he said. It all adds up to an organization that is ready, willing and able to help meet the food needs of local residents in need. But those who need to contact by telephone, he said. Although the main pantry room is closed to the general public, shelves are full and volunteers are ready to collect food boxes for those who need a little help to put food on the table.
“We can prebox a small box, a medium box, a large box. So when they call, it doesn’t take long. It’s just different, “Pooley said.
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