While many businesses like restaurants and other shops have scaled back operations, the North Texas Food Bank has ramped up — if not doubled -- their workload.
They've had more mouths to feed in such short notice -- especially with kids out of school -- and they don’t want a single family to wake up hungry in our area.
That’s why the food bank is launching some new changes to keep the food flowing, leading the effort to stop hunger before it becomes another problem on our plates.
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They're looking to feed up to 60,000 families per week, a number they say will most likely grow.
“That’s a first estimate. We think needs are going to increase as people have lost wages and they’re trying to find what to do for their families in the situation,” said Trisha Cunningham, CEO and president of the NTFB. “We see that those needs are going to go up.”
NBC 5 got a peek into their Plano warehouse this week. Volunteers are still working hard but are now following a strict "low or no touch" in handling the packaged foods.
Instead of sorting pallets, they're prepping easy to deliver boxed kits for families and organizations are doing drive-thru pick up.
However, the worry is not the food. It's the manpower.
Right now, they're limited to 50 or fewer volunteers at a time in the warehouse. Everyone is screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and spread out into small work groups throughout the warehouse.
“The real issue that we’ve had is continuity of supply of volunteers. We’ve had many corporations that have asked for employees not to go out, and they’ve canceled a lot of volunteer shifts. Not because they don’t wanna come and help us to because out of abundance of caution," Cunningham said. “We had to figure out, when we have more than doubled our need, how do we get the people in to be able to help us? Because with 41,000 volunteers a year coming in, there’s no way that we could hire enough people to be able to do that."
But there's an innovative and new initiative that has just launched to help get the food out and help people earn a paycheck.
“We have a partnership with ShiftSmart, which is an organization that is going to get people from the hospitality industry who have lost their wages as a result of this virus. They’re going to be able to sign onto their app and then be able to deploy them here for our shifts at the food bank. So basically they will be paid to come and volunteer at the food bank,” said Cunningham.
She said the Communities Foundation of Texas has set up a fund to pay those hospitality workers for their time at the food bank. They should enough to last them 60 days through this initiative and will go from there, according to Cunningham.
“The food bank is on the front line of this. Food is the most basic of needs. And whenever things start to get tight for families, we want to be able to offset some of those expenses that families would normally have,” she said.
Monetary donations are encouraged so that the food bank can continue to purchase nutritious food for families.
Another big focus for the food bank is the hope that the community can help with canned food drives for only very specific items they need right now. NTFB is in need of *only the following items:
- Canned tuna or chicken
- Peanut butter
- Canned fruit in its own juice
- Cereal bars
Donations of just those items will make it easier for volunteers to sort the meal boxes and not have to sort through a massive amount of random donations.
Cunningham said there are 200 partner agencies in the NTFB network and as of this week, only a handful have ceased operations.
Efforts are also happening this weekend to help a food pantry based in Collin County.
Frisco Family Services will be hosting the food drive on Saturday, March 21 to collect food and hygiene products for clients. Staff will also be accepting monetary donations on site.
"While the increased demand for our food pantry and other services was great prior to this pandemic, the demand is now even greater due to the many implications of COVID-19," said executive director Nicole Bursey. "Families are already coming in for assistance because their work hours have been cut. With the help of our very caring and supportive community, we can and will get through this unprecedented situation."
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the pantry's address on 9085 Dogwood in Frisco.