*In the time since these photographs were taken, all volunteers have received and are now wearing masks
As part of our community partnership, we have always been working closely with our nonprofit agency partners to relieve hunger in SLO County. During the COVID-19 health crisis, we are now providing more than twice as much food to all of them and are also rapidly expanding shelf-stable and cold storage options.
Today we want to highlight the efforts of one of our partners: Atascadero Loaves and Fishes (ALF). In November 2018, we reported on the excellent work ALF does to provide nutritious food to people in need from Atascadero, Templeton, Santa Margarita, Creston, and the California Valley. As COVID-19 hit and the whole world grappled to adjust to the quickly evolving pandemic, so did ALF. Usually the food pantry welcomes visitors to talk with friendly volunteers about which groceries and other household items their home currently needs, but like so many other organizations, ALF has now also changed its procedures and implemented safety measures to protect both volunteers and clients.
Every weekday morning, the first round of volunteers packs bags (for households with one to two people) and boxes (for families of three or more) with food items, including bread, treats and fresh produce, as well as other household items, including toilet paper and soap. The second round of volunteers hands out these bags and boxes to ALF’s guests in the afternoon.
As the doors open at 1:00pm, visitors can then walk up to the table by the entrance and talk to the volunteer sitting behind the door approximately 6 feet away. Since guests are not allowed to enter the building, they cannot see all the other precautions that are being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus around the pantry: Volunteers wear gloves and bottles of sanitizer are systematically arranged around the rooms. ALF’s usual interview process has for now been reduced to the volunteer at the door noting down each person’s name, address and household size. Once the check-in process is completed, a freshly-cleaned cart filled with the essential items that were packed in the morning is pushed out another door for the recipients to load into their vehicle.
The ALF team counts the amount of recipients every day in order to predict the need for the next day. Just like most other food banks around the country, ALF has also already seen an increase in demand for their services. “Usually, we get up to 30 visitors per day, but this number has already gone up to 50,” says manager Dorothy Green. “I want to thank everybody at the SLO Food Bank. You have given us more food than we would usually order from you and it is making a huge difference in what we can provide to our clients!”
– By Luise Gleason, Marketing & Communications Coordinator