Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Coronavirus

Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Coronavirus 2560 1222 Harry Chapin Food Bank

Friday, April 24, 2020

The impact of nearly eight weeks of Coronavirus

Today marks the completion of four weeks of our Coronavirus drive-thru distributions. Our operations have been in overdrive for nearly eight weeks. Your food bank has weathered some significant challenges and there are still some challenges yet resolved.

Food Sourcing: Due to hoard purchasing by the average consumer, our traditional food sourcing channels had nearly dried up in the earlier days of the pandemic. Today, we are still experiencing fluctuations in the foods sourced in retail stores but overall, the amounts of food we are sourcing from stores is on a positive trajectory. Your food bank’s food sourcing team has formed new relationships with Florida farmers and rescue produce from the farmers that suddenly found themselves without their usual buyers when restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms. We are proud to share that our produce distribution levels are very close to their previous levels prior to the pandemic. The purchasing of food is not a practice that your food bank utilizes widely. In fact, we purchase roughly 10% of what we normally distribute. With the financial support of our community, we are purchasing enormous amounts of food – thank you very much! The supply chain is at an all time high and there is a shortage of trucks and drivers causing shipments to become delayed, which presents your food bank with inventory management challenges. Your food bank is incredibly proud of our food sourcing team – they are champions!

Volunteers: Prior to the pandemic, more than 60% of our volunteer workforce was over the age of 70 and a seasonal resident. Naturally, many of these change makers have not given us their time out of concern for their health. Thankfully, your food bank has a steady flow of new volunteers who are well, able and willing to give their time. Our volunteer department has had to incorporate social distancing measures to ensure the safety of our change makers which has presented challenges. When masks became a requirement, we faced the reality that the masks we had ordered will not be arriving for months. Our community came to our rescue by lovingly making us masks, of which, we will continue to happily accept more. We love our volunteers and are so grateful to the many that have stepped forward to sort produce, pack food kits and help with distribution. If you are well, able and willing to give your time, please click here.

Programs: Our program team has not been immune to adapting to the Coronavirus. Obviously, our in-school pantries have closed. CSFP and Care and Share: Senior Feeding Program have adapted to provide seniors with low-incomes two-month supplies to minimize their trips and potential exposure to the virus. We worked very closely with our Care and Share partners to ensure that those seniors who are homebound are not being forgotten. Our Partner Agency Program is a network of over 150 agencies throughout our five-county footprint. We are proud of how creative many of our partners have become by changing their distribution models so that they maximize social distancing. Sadly, many of them report more than 50% increase in demand and 18% of our partners have closed their doors. Your food bank has modified our mobile pantry distributions to drive-thru distributions and we have identified twelve sites. We have adjusted certain locations to ensure that we are meeting the greatest need and will continue to do so. Your food bank honors how creative the program team has been to ensure that we are meeting the staggering demand. If you are looking for food, please click here.

Operations: Our fleet of 17 trucks has proven to be inadequate in our ability to move the enormous amount of food so we have rented two more trucks and hired two temporary drivers. Our drivers visit retail outlets to pick up food, they deliver food to our partner agencies and our drive-thru distributions. Annually, they log over 225,000 miles. Our warehouse crews are working overtime to ensure the ease of receiving our inventory and then turning around and moving our inventory out to our various programs. This week, our operations provided our programs with over 600,000 pounds of food. This is a 25% increase of how much food your food bank would typically distribute. This means that our warehouse warriors are handling 600,000 pounds of food twice! It is truly inspiring to see how heroic their efforts are.

Your food bank is overwhelmed by what we are witnessing in our community. We have seen the community pull together in various ways to ensure that no one has to go hungry. We are grateful for the outpouring of support and are ever mindful that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

To support our efforts, please click here.