Those who provide food for people who are food insecure say that the recent changes to the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in an increased demand for emergency food services.
“People who have never been to a food bank before are showing up,” said Master Key Director Julie Rickey. The organization runs two different food programs. One gives out fresh produce and fruit on Friday at Harvestime Assembly of God Church, 222 S. Heritage Parkway in Sherman and a food pantry offered at their property at 209 S. FM 1417 in Sherman from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Rickey said the number of families served on Fridays has gone from around 375 to 580. On Saturday, the numbers of people being served has gone from 60 to 100 families to around 330 to 400 hundred families.
The number of people seeking assistance at Grand Central Station, 110 Throckmorton in Sherman, is also up. Executive Director Karen Bray said before the pandemic, they were feeding between 90 and 130 people a day. Now they are feeding between 130 and 150 a day. And it is costing more to feed those people due to the social distancing requirement to stop the spread of the pandemic.
Bray said can no longer provide hot meals, which can be prepared less expensively for large numbers of people, and have to hand out individual bagged meals made up of more expensive convenience items like sandwiches, bagged chips and cookies, to each person who seeks assistance.
“We have had to reach out to the community for donations,” Bray said. She said some local stores have kicked in to help but Grand Central Station has had to absorb most of the difference in the cost.
Over at Forest Avenue Baptist Church, 106 W. Forest Avenue in Sherman, their food assistance program has not seen a huge influx of people seeking help, but they are having a hard time finding food.
Pastor Brian Taylor said they are having a hard time getting enough food to help the 50 or more families they generally see each week.
“There are, I think, two reasons for that,” Taylor said The first of which is that stores are selling more because people are staying home and eating at home, which possibly means that they have less to give away. “Secondly, some of our suppliers (like Share ministries) have closed their doors due to the Coronavirus. Now, even though Share has “officially” closed their doors, some of their staff are still trying to help me locate food,“ Taylor said. He is having to go out and buy more food than they have had to do in the past.
“When we do go and buy food we have to get very creative because many stores won’t let you buy very many items, so food pantries are having a hard time buying enough food even if they have the money that’s been given,” Taylor explained. “So far the Lord has provided, and each week we have just what we need, but we are certainly operating on faith around here.” he continued.
All of the pantry leaders said monetary donations are the easiest way for people to help. That allows them to spend that money with programs that greatly discount food purchased in bulk. However, Grand Central is accepting donations of items like individually packaged chips, cookies and all of those serving the homeless need bottled water.
Bray said they generally hand out bags containing two sandwiches, chips, cookies and bottled water to each person who seeks help there. On Friday, each person gets several bags of food to help them make it through the weekend.
Each of the food pantries is doing everything that they can to help curb the spread of COVID-19 including delivering food directly to people’s cars when possible. Staff wear protective gear to hand out the food and when working together to put the packages together.
No one knows how long the pandemic situation will last and then no one knows how long it will take people to get back on their feet. Until then, those who run the area’s food banks said they are grateful for the help from the community. To find out what each organization needs, see their Facebook pages.
Rickey said they do need volunteers at MasterKey Ministries. Those interested in helping should email her at email@example.com.
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