Many food banks in North Florida have spent ample time combatting food insecurity in the region, but amid the coronavirus pandemic these organizations are also working to keep their community members safe.
Shari Hubbard works at Second Harvest of the Big Bend. She says that one of their biggest concerns was keeping the heartbeat of the operation — the volunteers — safe from the coronavirus.
“A lot of our core volunteers as you may know are high-risk senior citizens. They have the time to dedicate to regular volunteer activities, so we have a lot of concern for their safety. We encourage them to stay home and stay safe,” Hubbard said.
Representatives from Second Harvest of the Big Bend, Feeding Florida and the local Salvation Army have all mentioned that prioritizing public safety has not prevented them from getting food to those in need. It has only changed the way they do so.
Julie Smith is the social service program coordinator at the Salvation Army in Tallahassee. She believes the most challenging part about serving the community during the pandemic is keeping up with safety guidelines as they update.
“We’ve been following all of the safety standards that have been put in place,” Smith said. “We basically changed almost every procedure that we have from the intake process of the food, stocking the food, and packaging the food to give out in order to keep our staff and clients safe.”
Robin Safley, an executive director at Feeding Florida, says that her teams are more than capable of distributing food to those who need it, but the next goal is to make sure they continue to have the adequate food supply in order to do so.
“Its taking a toll on them just mentally and physically because it’s ramped up and the pace has changed but they’re doing it. I mean this is what they were built for,” Safley said. “I think if we have a concern it’s not about getting the food to the people who need it; it’s about ensuring that we have product and the right product at that.”
Safley also mentioned that as a state, they have done a successful job thus far due to the assistance of philanthropic efforts and state aid received throughout the year.
All organizations encouraged community members to get more information on how to donate, volunteer or receive food on their websites: feedingflorida.org, salvationarmyusa.org, and fightinghunger.org.