Area food shelves have been busy implementing new procedures due to COVID-19. Normally, these food shelves operate on a consumer choice model where shoppers select items themselves (with a limit on high demand items like protein). Now, workers and volunteers are prepacking items to be picked up at the door or curbside. Some prepacked boxes are also purchased from Channel One. While area food shelves generally operate alike, each has its individual character.
Lynn from SEMCAC in Preston is grateful for an amazing volunteer base with very little turnover. Workers now put together boxes that include nutritional essentials — produce, milk, bread, eggs and protein. They even include simple meal ideas inspired by the contents of the box. Lynn stated how fortunate they are to have generous donations from the beef, pork and dairy industries. Households get 15-20 pounds of food per month. Boxes may contain more if items are close to expiring or perishable. A great effort is made not to waste. Since households now have less choice in what they’re receiving, the food shelf encourages them to share with others rather than let what they may not like or use go to waste. They’ve seen a few new clients and more single people during the pandemic. Normally, food shelf users present an ID card. The card helps keep track of the counts and other data for reporting and also indicates the household size for rationing portions. They don’t ask for income. For now they aren’t asking for the cards and won’t turn people away. SEMCAC of Preston is not restricting donations to the food shelf. They are putting donations in back for 24-48 hours. Lynn remarked that they have a fantastic donor base and are very fortunate. They really appreciate money and gift cards (Kwik Trip for example) to help fill the gaps. Personal care items are also accepted and in demand. The Preston Food Shelf hopes to return to its normal consumer choice model in the future so people can choose what they want instead of what they are given.
Similarly, Sharon from the Spring Valley Food Shelf said shoppers were no longer allowed in the store as of April 1. Customers drive up and their food is brought out to them by a volunteer. They also supplement with purchased Channel One boxes. If a family has over four members, they get two boxes. The shoppers do get a little choice in the bags the workers put together. They are given a list of available meats and veggies to select from. They will also take requests for specialty items such as diapers. Spring Valley is not encouraging food donations at this time, but is encouraging donations of paper products (toilet paper, napkins, etc.), hygiene items and cash donations. Every shopper is given a bag with toilet paper, soaps, paper towels, etc. along with their food. Sharon hasn’t witnessed a great increase in numbers in Fillmore County, but believes when stimulus money runs out, this could change quickly.
Debra, from the Methodist Church in Chatfield is really proud of the great bags/boxes the are able to give as a result of generous donations of food and money. They get a lot of food from local vendors, like milk from Kapper’s Dairy and tomatoes from Preston. They are also giving out masks. She has seen a small uptick in business. The Chatfield Food Shelf is allowing customers to come in, but limiting the number of shoppers inside. They also schedule private appoints for people. This really helps for new customers who may be insecure about visiting the food shelf. The school based Backpack Program, which sent food home with students, has been moved to the food shelf for weekend pickup since children are attending school online from home.
In this time of being apart in body but together in spirit, if you’re able to either give or receive, keep area food shelves in mind. Find the weekly schedule of area food shelf hours in the Fillmore County Journal’s Community Calendar.