Food pantries respond to increased need
For The Review, Tidings
The pandemic of coronavirus is impacting local food banks, and organizers are eager to let the public know they have food available.
"Food is not a luxury or optional, so we have been working hard to brainstorm ways we can meet the needs of our community and yet also meet the health, safety and family needs and restrictions of our volunteers," said Tracy Smith, program coordinator for Tualatin School House Pantry. Starting Monday, March 16 TSFP changed its distribution model, offering only prepacked food boxes distributed via curbside pickup where clients do not get out of their vehicles.
"We have plans and signs in the works to guide clients as they enter the parking lot to head to the left and loop around to the pantry," Smith said. As clients enter the parking lot they are handed an abbreviated client intake form to fill out in the car. When they arrive at the loading zone for their turn they just hand the form over, and pop their trunk.
"We load up their food for them, two-to-three pre-packed nonperishable food boxes, one cold box and one bag of perishable produce and bread items. Then off they go with significantly less interaction and without surfaces to be touched or retouched by all," she said.
The model should reduce personal contact with others and surfaces to keep volunteers and clients healthy and yet still provide emergency food to the community.
"We understand and encourage our at risk volunteers to take a leave of absence during this time," Smith said. "We also understand that many volunteers have kids now at home instead of in school, so you may need to be a parent first and foremost needing to also take a leave of absence."
The need for volunteers is as great as ever. People are needed to prepack the food boxes. Where nonperishable foods can be packed days in advance, cold food needs to be packed within the hour it is distributed. Smith said the packing groups will be small and do their work when the pantry is closed.
"Those with 10- to 18-year-olds not in school might be interested in some pre-packing projects they could bring their kids along to help with, if you feel your kids are not in the 'at risk' category," she said.
There are many other volunteer opportunities available too.
Food donations are always needed.
"I would ideally love to have a Spanish speaking volunteer at each shift but we do plan to have the registration form with directions in Spanish and English," Smith said. "We also plan to have the directions of what to expect in Spanish and English on our website and voicemail."
Tualatin School House Pantry serves residents of Tualatin, Wilsonville, West Linn, Lake Oswego and some Durham residents. Proof of address is required. Those out of their service area can be served by any of the hundreds of food pantries listed online at oregonfoodbank.org.
"We expect a huge influx of clients and have lost half of our volunteers so we are not able to extend our area of service at this time," Smith said. "If people are in a low risk category and want to volunteer then they should fill out the volunteer inquiry on our website at schoolhousepantry.org. We appreciate everyone's flexibility as we switch our distribution model from shopping to curbside."
Tualatin School House Pantry is located in the lower level of Rolling Hills Community Church, 3550 SW Borland Road, Tualatin. Call 503-783-0721 to learn hours of service and requirements, plus volunteer opportunities, or visit schoolhousepantry.org.
West Linn Food Pantry is a nonprofit organization that provides food boxes for families in the West Linn and Lake Oswego areas. Located inside Willamette United Methodist Church, families have utilized the community operated service since January 2007. The pantry doors are always open to those with food insecurity. The church is located at 1683 Willamette Falls Drive, West Linn.
Pantry organizer Phil Rees also anticipates an increase in need with reduced work hours due to business closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are worried people won't know we are here and that we can help (with emergency food)," he said. "And we have our Home Plate food program for school kids. I haven't figured out yet how we are going to get those foods to them."
Once a month families may obtain a food box containing a three- to five-day supply of food. Bread, produce and pastries are available weekly.
"We provide food based on the number of people in the home," said Rees. "We also provide personal care products as available. Home deliveries can be arranged for seniors, homebound individuals and families without transportation."
To receive assistance bring identification with proof of address; proof of need is not required.
"Please also bring bags or boxes with you each time you visit the pantry," Rees said.
The food service is free and wheelchair accessible. Food and monetary donations are always welcomed. Online donations can be made at westlinn
To learn more about how you can help, or receive foods from, West Linn Food Pantry visit westlinnfoodpantry.com.
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