WARSAW – Local food pantries are rising to meet the challenges presented by the unprecedented coronavirus epidemic while maintaining a reserve of flexibility should circumstances change.
With an expected spike in unemployment, pantries are expecting to see a rise in calls for assistance.
As of now, all local food pantries are remaining open, some with slight changes to operations.
Here is a recap of how some pantries are reacting.
Combined Community Services
The Warsaw-based nonprofit has already seen an increase in food pantry usage.
“Monday we served 32 guests,” said Executive Director Randy Polston. “Tuesday we served 39.”
Polston expects that the number of requests “will continue to escalate.”
Some are currently out of work due to the crisis. Others are coming because their kids are out of school and “parents are running to the cupboards a lot more often,” he said.
CCS is “bracing and prepared” for the uptick in assistance, he said.
CCS is still accepting donations of store-bought food items such as soup, pasta, peanut butter, jelly and cereal. Meijer also donated several gift cards to purchase items for the pantry. Polston said CCS will take a “neighborly approach” to buying from Meijer to “fill in the gaps” at the pantry. CCS is not currently accepting any clothing donations.
Next week, CCS expects a shipment of refrigerated food items from the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. CCS will reevaluate its food bank inventory Friday.
Last week, CCS instituted operational changes amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Polston said the board of directors agreed to close the lobby and the clothing pantry for the next two weeks. He noted the board will re-evaluate the changes two weeks at a time. The changes went into effect Monday, March 16.
The food pantry will remain open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The panty will operate a drive-through. Polston asks guests to stay in their vehicles and park next to the sidewalk adjacent to the loading dock at CCS. A staff member will go out to the vehicle and let guests fill out paperwork
Amid concerns over the coronavirus, there is a calm atmosphere at the Warsaw Salvation Army Food Bank according to Administrator Ken Locke.
The Salvation Army Food Bank hasn’t “seen a mass run,” Locke said. However, he noted a gradual increase in requests. The organization in preparing for a possible uptick in usage of the food bank.
He noted “a lot of food industry workers” have recently requested assistance from the Salvation Army.
He recalled one such case when a young mother recently came into his office with two children. She’s a restaurant worker who saw her hours cut in half. “She must to try to figure out who is going to watch her kids when she works and how she is going to feed them on reduced pay along with paying bills,” Locke said.
He said the Salvation Army is committed to doing what it can to help those in need. Locke credited the schools for providing help with food assistance amidst the effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Call (574) 267-5361.
Enchanted Hills Community Partnership Center
Bowen Center’s Enchanted Hills Community Partnership Center will remain open, including its food pantry, which is available to the public each Wednesday or by appointment.
They are asking that anyone experiencing fever, cough, congestion or sneezing not visit. For all of its programming, it is staying in line with the recommended 10 person limit.
The center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with staff available on an appointments-only basis on the weekends. There will be eLearning support from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Its Wi-Fi strength also reaches outside of the center in case it would need to close to the public.
Call (260) 856-2136.
Harvest With A Heart
Milford’s Harvest with a Heart food pantry will remain open as of now. Milford residents are allowed one visit per month, with proof of address, with hours of operation being from 1-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.
Ann Schlabach noted, “We can always use more cereal and soups, cleaning and hygiene products. As of right now, we have not seen a rush on the pantry like in the grocery stores, but as people lose wages in coming weeks, I anticipate an increased need for food pantry services. We will do everything we can to keep the pantry stocked given the grocery supply shortages. Thank you to the community for supporting our local food pantry!”
Call (574) 658-4156.
Milford Food Bank
Expecting a potential increase in need, Milford Food Bank is determining how to best support pantries, getting available food to them while sourcing more food now so it is on hand when needed. Additionally, Regg Beer noted fewer volunteers will be used for safety reasons.
“We’re trying to anticipate needs, and we do work with a limited budget so we have to work with that and build up supplies,” Beer said.
Distribution is still planned on its normal first Friday of the month, but it will be done differently with fewer people loading food.
“At this point, we’re in the thick of it,” Beer said. “Our hopes and prayers are that everyone can stay safe and healthy. We are doing everything so Christ can shine through us, and doing our best to see people through this.”
Financial donations are welcome. Checks can be mailed to 3686 N 1025W Cromwell, IN 46732, with the note ATTN: Milford Food Bank.
For information, email [email protected]
North Webster Food Pantry
Effective immediately and until further notice, North Webster Food Bank is shifting its operations to a drive-thru model. Clients are asked to remain in their vehicles where they will fill out paperwork and then wait for pantry volunteers to fill their orders.
“We expect to be busy,” Lori Mark said, noting the change has been made due to the pantry’s small size and to protect the health of its volunteers.
As far as donations go, nonperishables are always welcomed, but the pantry asks that donations be left outside.
Hours of operation remain from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and from 1-3 p.m. Thursdays.
Mark said, “We are open and we’re ready to help Tippecanoe Township residents.”
Call (574) 244-2142.
Syracuse Food Pantry
Syracuse Food Pantry has also not seen a rush as of yet, though Director Arlene Glover noted it can always use canned food donations, including soup, canned meats and beans. So far, the pantry’s canned vegetable selection is good, but it needs more nonperishable protein items.
“There were a lot of food drives this winter, so we’ve been very fortunate,” Glover said.
The pantry is opened to Turkey Creek Township residents — must show proof of residence, a photo ID and proof of income — from 9-11:45 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and then from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays.
“They can always call and leave a message,” Glover said.
Call (574) 457-5450.