Whereas an elevated demand for meals help through the COVID-19 pandemic and its financial fallout have introduced challenges for the meals financial institution that serves the individuals of Mid-Missouri, the pandemic has additionally led individuals to extend their assist, in keeping with a meals financial institution administrator.
Seth Wolfmeyer — the Meals Financial institution for Central & Northeast Missouri’s communication and advertising and marketing coordinator — mentioned “individuals have been extremely beneficiant,” extra so than in recent times.
Amid the pandemic, Wolfmeyer mentioned “There’s been a renewed give attention to meals banks and what we do.”
The Meals Financial institution for Central & Northeast Missouri — positioned in Columbia — is certainly one of six within the state, and it serves the Jefferson Metropolis and wider Mid-Missouri space.
The meals financial institution distributes meals by means of impartial accomplice businesses similar to native meals pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in addition to by cellular meals pantries that commonly ship meals by truck to communities and thru packages for varsity kids, veterans and senior adults.
Wolfmeyer mentioned the cellular meals pantries served greater than 41,000 people and distributed greater than 1.1 million kilos of meals between April and August this yr.
He didn’t instantly have numbers from final yr to check that point interval time to, however he mentioned it appeared like a number of hundred extra households had been being served per thirty days than earlier than.
As a selected month’s instance, he mentioned 9,300 individuals had been served by the cellular pantries in August 2020, in comparison with 7,200 individuals served in August 2019 — an nearly 30 p.c improve.
Wolfmeyer mentioned there may be additionally a brand new cellular program this yr that added vans to the schedule that target distributing recent meals. He mentioned that program has distributed meals to 9,600 people to date. Cole, Callaway and Moniteau counties have every been served by one truck, and Camden County has been served by two.
The meals financial institution’s cellular pantry calendar is offered at sharefoodbringhope.org/occasions.
Wolfmeyer mentioned demand for meals varies day-to-day, and whereas the general amount in kilos of meals that is being distributed has not drastically elevated, what modified with the pandemic and related unemployment spikes was that “We had been seeing lots of people who wanted assist with meals for the primary time.”
Common shoppers stored coming, although he added accomplice businesses have put aside particular hours and established drive-thru choices to guard susceptible individuals similar to seniors.
He mentioned challenges that stay are ensuring meals could be distributed safely in a method that protects individuals’s well being, in addition to the supply of shelf-stable meals.
Wolfmeyer mentioned it is usually straightforward for a meals financial institution to accumulate shelf-stable meals — largely canned items. Nevertheless, when these objects are restricted on grocery retailer cabinets, “we really feel it on the meals financial institution.”
He mentioned it is an ongoing situation that when the meals financial institution locations an order for a considerable amount of canned produce, for instance, the order will likely be canceled or delayed by a month or extra.
Shelf-stable meals has additionally gotten dearer, Wolfmeyer added.
He mentioned a plus of the scenario has been extra availability of recent meals by means of the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Meals Help Program.
The federal authorities created that program to assist farmers and ranchers who had been impacted by disruptions to costs and provide chains attributable to the pandemic. It additionally allowed for the acquisition of recent produce, dairy and meat directed to meals banks, neighborhood and faith-based organizations, and different nonprofit meals distributors.
For individuals who wish to assist the meals financial institution, volunteer alternatives proceed to be restricted due to well being considerations.
Wolfmeyer mentioned the meals financial institution needed to droop its volunteer program — “which is a significant a part of how we’re capable of accomplish issues” — however a grant from the Missouri Basis for Well being allowed some non permanent workers to be employed, and the Missouri Nationwide Guard has additionally supplied help.
He mentioned the very best methods somebody can become involved can be to donate cash by means of the meals financial institution’s web site — sharefoodbringhope.org/ — or host a meals or fund drive.