The coronavirus is putting a strain on people around the United States, with many being forced to stay home from work and school, places they depend on for paychecks and meals.
The Harry Chapin Food Bank is trying to get ahead of that. While they haven’t yet seen an increase in demand for help, they know it’s coming, so they’re preparing for the influx of people.
The food bank is getting ready to serve students if local school districts decide to close.
“A lot of kids are currently getting breakfast and lunch at those schools,” said Kari Lefort, program director.
That demand would be in addition to the senior living facilities that the organization serves.
“We work with 42 sites that distribute senior food boxes every month,” Lefort said.
Should the demand for food increase, Lefort said the food bank is looking at options for serving those who need help.
“Right now we’re looking at the drive-thru model or a different kind of way of distributing food,” Lefort said.
Mobile pantry truck driver Ken Johnson is ready. He was planning on feeding 175 families on Thursday, but he knows that number could rise in the coming weeks.
“It’s hard not to enjoy your job when you’re having such an impact on people’s lives,” he said.
“What we do this week and what we do two or three weeks from now could be completely different, right. We’re learning as we go.”
Volunteer Richard Barber said they’re ready.
“Everyone here works hard and everyone here is prepared to work harder if they need to,” he said.
They’re letting history be their guide. For example, when red tide was an issue, the food bank increased their mobile pantries on Fort Myers Beach because so many service industry workers lost their jobs.
The Harry Chapin Food Bank website has information on how you can donate food or money to help feed those in need in Southwest Florida. There is a year-round need. The food bank accepts donations Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at its Fort Myers center, 3760 Fowler St., and in Naples at 3940 Prospect Ave. #101.
If you need help, the website has a list of food pantries in Southwest Florida and upcoming mobile pantries.