Local food banks are struggling to keep up with increased demand after the coronavirus has impacted people’s livelihoods.
Stephanie Otero is the CEO of Feeding America Riverside / San Bernardino.
She says that the coronavirus has led to a lot more people in need of a food bank.
Otero: “The coronavirus has definitely affected us just by the increase in demand obviously. I think people who maybe weren't in need of food bank services before are definitely in need now. Many people have reduced hours, or their jobs have just been shut down completely, many people have to stay home now because they don't have the childcare with schools being closed, so I think that in addition to the regular people we see, we're seeing many more members of our community who are in need and are using our services for the first time. And addition, we're a food bank that works with community partners which are basically local nonprofit charities who have hunger relief organizations. So, we utilize them to help feed people in the community because we cover such a broad area both Riverside and San Bernardino County, many of our partners have shut down their operation, so we're kind of seeing that overflow as well. People who would have been assisted by our partners are also coming to us, so it's kind of all hands on deck right now here at the food bank, with our staff out in the warehouse keeping the role for what used to be, what we would rely on with volunteers. Cause our volunteer program is suspended. Really try to maintain social distance, and health and safety standards that are out there right now with the virus, so making sure we're keeping all of our team healthy, because we're one of the last organizations to still be open and we want to make sure that we can see this through and stay open.”
According to Otero, demand for food has skyrocketed.
Otero: “Well before coronavirus, we were servicing over 200,000 people every month, I don't know what the numbers will look like now but I imagine them possibly doubling. To give you an example, as word is spreading that the food bank that we're here, we're offering food assistance, on Monday we assisted probably 55 families. Anywhere from two to ten people in a household. Yesterday, we serviced that in one hour. So we're seeing day by day, it's just dramatically increasing so we're just trying to keep up with demand. One of the primary things is we offer emergency food boxes. So those are normally packed by volunteers. So right now that's what our staff is doing, we're out there trying to prep those emergency boxes so we can continue to fulfill demand. We haven't seen a decline in our large donations that are coming in from our big manufacturers, those seem to still be coming in. Only time will tell, I think the effects of how we'll be impacted by the virus, no one really knows for sure, we've definitely seen a decline at the retail level, obviously, as many community members aren't able to get what they need at the store, stores are no longer donating because they just don't have it available.
Otero says food donations to Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino are still very much appreciated.
Otero: “So food donations are still very helpful, you know, shelf-stable items, things that many people need are peanut butter, canned tuna, beans, rice, those types of items, dried milk work really well in these types of situations, and then obviously monetary donations. 98 percent of all donations that come to us are put right back into our redistribution program, so there aren't many other nonprofit organizations I think that can say that. So, we can really do a lot with a little, and really can spread those dollars that people donate.”
Otero says the organization’s website is a good place to start for people looking for food.
Otero: “If people need help they can visit our website, which is Feedingie.org, we have a Get Help button on there, they can just send us an email, we do some homebound deliveries to those community members that don't have transportation, who are at risk, seniors, or maybe they're just located far from our food bank, we are still using volunteers for homebound deliveries, and then also we have certain distribution days and times they can come to the food bank and getting some food. So visiting our website or calling us at (951) 359-4757 is the best way to get access to the help they need.”