As recommended self isolation and social distancing persists into mid 2020, individuals and families who are struggling financially are looking elsewhere for food. Many turn towards churches like St. Raphael Catholic Church in Springdale, and they also look to local nonprofits like Lifesource located in Fayetteville.
These locations are experiencing about a 20% increase in the volume of people they serve and this is in direct relation to COVID-19. Places are now having to also change how they provide food to the general public.
“How we’re working because of COVID, we are actually serving everybody outside. We are getting their name and their phone number, and checking them in through our system that way,” Lifesource INC. director Jimmie Conduff said. “Then calling them on their cell phone to verify any information that may have been missing. Then we are putting the food in shopping carts and taking it out, and actually putting the item in the vehicle for them. And then they are able to leave and that way there is less contact with everybody.”
Shelters like the Salvation Army are also experiencing an increase in the need for beds, not just food.
“We’re being as careful as we can when taking people in, and we are just trying to help as many people possible. We only have so many beds and we have a high demand for people, that’s really our main issue,” Salvation Army Bentonville director Danny said.
Free food providers are also experiencing under staffing and a loss in volunteers due to COVID-19. The loss in available workers has reduced the number of locations open and available.
“We have seen several agencies close their doors for the complete month of April because they don’t have volunteers or their staff is all seniors. So they are doing what they have been suggested to do by the federal, the state, the county, and the city governments for our seniors to shelter in their homes,” Conduff said. “So where some of these families would have gone to two or three pantries to make ends meet, now they are having to come back to the same one or two pantries that are still open.”
While pantries are doing okay for the time being with COVID-19, some have become concerned for the amount of food they will have available in the future.
“Usually we start the year with a pretty good supply, however usually that food lasts us through the summer and into the early part of fall. The concern that I have is not for tomorrow or this month, it’s for this summer because we are using up a lot of the food that we would have for summer, “ Conduff said.