Food Pantries Adjust to COVID-19 Precautions & Shortages

| April 13, 2020

VENANGO CO., Pa., (EYT) – As Pennsylvania remains under orders that all businesses considered non-life sustaining remain closed except for carryout or delivery service, the state’s food pantries are working to help residents who find themselves out of work.

(Photo from Titusville Food Pantry website.)

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding wants Pennsylvanians to return to their regular shopping habits to allow the supply chain to recover and allow enough essentials for all.

He said over-purchasing impacts the food system, particularly the charitable food system that’s currently working overtime to meet increased demands as thousands of Pennsylvanians are finding themselves out of work as a result of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Local food pantries associated with Feeding Pennsylvania report they are still getting regular supplies of food. Independent food pantries are having a harder time.

Fay Corley, Director of the Titusville Area Food Bank said items such as bread and eggs are nearly impossible to obtain. They have no affiliation with a larger group.

“I can get eggs, but not at the price we usually do,” Corley explained. “We can’t afford eggs.”

Food distribution takes place on Wednesdays and Fridays. They were recently able to provide clients with a loaf of bread, cottage cheese, lentils, margarine, fresh produce, and canned goods.

“Right now, we’re locked up,” Corley said. “People come to the door, we get their name, and then we hand out whatever we have. It’s already bagged, and we hand it to them.”

Volunteers wore masks and gloves and disinfected surfaces throughout the process, according to Corley.

The food bank serves an average of 160 families per week, and there is no need to meet income qualifications. Although Corley couldn’t provide exact numbers, she said they have been seeing an increasing number of people seeking help.

Donations of money and food are welcome. To find out more, you can reach them at 814-827-2378 or online.

In Clarion, the First United Methodist Church suspended its weekly distribution of dinner meals, previously known as Food for Friends, due to safety concerns for both recipients and volunteers.

On the third Wednesday of every month, the church provides food to those who meet income guidelines from its food pantry called the Love Cupboard. They currently plan to continue that service.

Last month, volunteers wore masks and gloves as they handed out food to more people than usual. Right now, they’re reevaluating the distribution process.

“At this point, we’re still planning to distribute food, but we don’t know how yet,” said volunteer Howard Rhoades. “We know that with all of the conditions that are going on and the safety concerns, we have to totally change what we’re doing.

“Distancing and being a possible carrier to people coming in is a major issue with us. We may also be addressing somebody who is a carrier, and we really are going to look at the safety of the people here at the church.”

Distribution of food is the concern at this point. The church is still able to receive food from Second Harvest Food Bank in Erie.

The church saw a slight uptick in the number of people it served during last month’s distribution, though not as much as expected.

“We got an order last week, and the supply is healthy,” Rhoades explained. “In fact, we got more variety this last week than we normally do, so that is not a problem. It’s distributing it safely that is our concern.”

The following food pantries served by the Second Harvest Food Bank have closed due to COVID-19:

– Knox Food Pantry
– St. Patrick’s, Franklin (canceling regular distribution but keeping food delivery for emergency calls)

If you are affected by these cancellations and in need of food, Second Harvest recommends you call the food line phone number at 814-459-3663, extension 117. An agency relations representative will return your call as soon as possible with alternative options.

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