As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to ripple throughout our communities, food shelves are working diligently to meet the changing needs of their clients and transform their operations in order to limit exposure and manage the risk of contagion.
In this difficult time, FFEN’s mission is more critical than ever. We are continuing to invest in the transformation and sustainability of Minnesota food shelves, even as we shift our operations to have FFEN staff work from home and maintain shelter-in-place strategies. We are staying in constant touch with our food shelf partners: documenting their efforts, sharing their strategies, and helping to allocate important resources in an effort to mitigate this unprecedented crisis.
The Mora Food Pantry in Mora, Minnesota is exemplary of many of the changes food shelves are making in order to continue serving their communities. FFEN has worked with the Mora Food Pantry since 2017 when we assisted their change from a volunteer-run food shelf to an organization with a paid director. We spoke to Jodi Gerner, current director of the Food Pantry, about the steps that organization is taking to meet these new challenges.
Like many food shelves, the Mora Food Pantry has transitioned to a curbside delivery set-up—handing off prepackaged food and household goods to clients without requiring them to set foot inside the enclosed and sometimes crowded environment of the food shelf. And like most hunger-relief organizations, they are already experiencing increased demand as families and individuals prepare for the difficulties of prolonged self-quarantine and social distancing measures. Even more families are expected to seek help as business closures and layoffs place more individuals in need of assistance.
“We had about a 50% increase on Tuesday,” said Jodi.
Supplies distributed from area food banks to food shelves throughout greater Minnesota are often limited to once-a-month shipments—in the meantime, local food shelves draw on their own resources to keep food stocked and available (read more about the difference between Food Banks and Food Shelves here). It's not typical for food shelves to see increased demand in March. Normally, they're busy raising money and running food drives for MN FoodShare at this time of year. But now, many food shelves have had to cancel their largest fundraisers as the public is cautioned to avoid large groups in public spaces.
“Currently our supply is OK. I’m not worried yet,” says Jodi. “But it goes down very fast and I’m spending more on food than I ever have. I’m just being mindful of every step I take.”
Your support in this time of crisis is absolutely critical.
Donations to your local food shelf, like the Mora Food Pantry, are always encouraged. To help identify your local food shelf, you can use Hunger Solutions MN’s “Find Help” tool.
Donations to FFEN will be focused on supporting food shelves across the state that need it most. Both technical assistance and equipment funding are tailored to responding to the current need and supporting longer term sustainability for food shelves.
The days to come will continue to require a lot from all of us. At FFEN, we believe in following the example of food shelf volunteers everywhere--knowing that we are all more resilient than we thought and that we're one hundred percent up to the challenge.