CitySquare Adjusts Food Pantry Operation to Help Record Number of People in Need

CitySquare has seen a 30% increase in people using its food pantry since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

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A line of cars, SUVs and trucks formed early Tuesday morning and snaked through the CitySquare parking lot in the shadow of downtown Dallas.

"We're seeing record numbers of families coming through our food pantry," CitySquare President John Siburt said. "Our team has been amazing in the ways they've adapted to this crisis."

Siburt said CitySquare's pantry has shifted from a grocery store model to a drive-thru model to maintain social distancing. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, CitySquare has seen a record 30% increase in clients, which the organization calls "neighbors."

"Yeah. You can see the fear and the uncertainty in people's eyes," Siburt said.

"It's been a long, long, long time," Odell Lee said after she picked up her food pantry items.

Lee is a new "neighbor" at the CitySquare food pantry who was recently laid off from two jobs.

"I live on the word hope," she said.

The increase in need comes with needs of their own. Many of CitySquare's regular volunteers are in the "at-risk" category for coronavirus and are staying home. So, they are filling those vacant shifts with laid off workers, who get paid to work by Get Shift Done, and uniformed National Guard members.

"Yeah, the National Guard lets you know it's not business as usual," Siburt said. "Our organization believes in the power of people and the power of community, and we understand that we all need one another and I think that's more than ever in the midst of this crisis."

CitySquare is looking for more volunteers and more bags to carry more groceries for more "neighbors" in need.

"I might be having a normal day," Siburt said. "But there's other people who've lost their job or there's other people that are in high need who can't go out of their house, who can't go out to get groceries, so how can I help?"

There is a silver lining to the social distancing. It's making room in CitySquare's food pantry for a community renovation project by the Dallas Regional Chamber Leadership Dallas.

Workers are upgrading the pantry area to make it more accessible when the COVID-19 restrictions end and "neighbors" are welcomed back in to pick up their own items, rather than waiting in line in the parking lot.

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