Food Bank distributes meals to families in Sussex

Harrington resident Rob Taylor, with apples, and Wilmington resident Anna Erickson, with milk, head toward a vehicle during the Food Bank of Delaware’s drive-thru food pantry Friday at Sussex Central High School. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — Wet weather Friday did not dampen spirits of staff or volunteers at the Food Bank of Delaware’s second emergency mobile food pantry held in Sussex County during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Fortunately, I have been blessed. I am still working, and I have food and everything,” said Millsboro resident Wade Jones, a state employee and one of the many volunteers on hand at Friday’s event. “This is a way that I can contribute. This one way to do it. It is called humanity at its finest. To sit home and know this is going on this close to my house, I just could not sit home and not participate.”

Volunteer Wade Jones of Millsboro raises the hatch to deliver a bag of apples to one of the many patrons at Friday’s Food Bank of Delaware drive-thru. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Hundreds of vehicles in multiple lines filtered through pickup/loading areas for emergency food. Friday’s menu included milk by the gallon, apples by the bag, assorted canned goods, frozen meats, chicken patties, cereal and boxes of liquid eggs.

It was staged in a parking lot at Sussex Central High School.

Kim Turner, Food Bank of Delaware’s communications director, said the Food Bank was prepared to distribute emergency food to 2,500 families Friday.

“That is what are prepared for,” said Ms. Turner. “Some people have told us they weren’t able to make it out because of the rain, and a few were scared to come out, knowing that this area is a hot spot for COVID-19.”

Delaware State Police help monitor the traffic and flow at the Food Bank of Delaware’s mobile emergency food pantry Friday at Sussex Central High School. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

The need, she said, has probably increased since the Food Bank of Delaware’s first mobile food pantry in Sussex, held in March at Crossroad Community Church near Georgetown.

“A lot of people essentially went from having a job to not having a job overnight. We know that there is a lot of people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet. They are worried about whether they will be able to pay their rent or mortgage, their car payment,” said Ms. Turner. “So, we’re hoping that today’s food assistance will help them free up some money in their budgets so that they can pay other bills that may be looming.”

As rain falls, Marsha Mills of Rehoboth Beach heads to an open trunk with two gallons of milk Friday during the Food Bank of Delaware’s second drive-thru pantry in Sussex County during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Private citizens, members of the Delaware National Guard, Delaware State Police, both on and off duty, and a number of elected officials were part of the huge volunteer corps.

“That is something that is not uncommon that you see in Sussex County,” said State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who represents the Georgetown area. “When there are people in need, everybody from all walks of life, every corner of our county come out and help. They are all out here to help their fellow Sussex Countians in their time of need.”

Delaware’s Department of Transportation and state police monitored traffic.

Another volunteer, State Sen. Ernesto Lopez said that while grocery stores are beginning to regain the stock on their shelves “the bottom line is people continue to have unemployment. There is still a need for food. So, to be able to provide that today is critically important.”

“Nobody feeds people in Delaware better than the Food Bank of Delaware,” Sen. Lopez said. “We are very fortunate to have them playing a critical role in this acute crisis that we are currently facing.”

Sen. Pettyjohn said good nutrition can play a key role in staying healthy. “You see in communities where they don’t have access to good nutrition, where it is during this time or other times, you see the increase in illness with those communities,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “Keeping people supplied with good, healthy food; look at the variety here, it’s things that people need to keep themselves and their families healthy. During this time, it is extremely important to make sure that that is happening. Organizations like the Food Bank always do a fantastic job.”

Scheduled to run from noon to 3 p.m., Friday’s mobile food pantry had an early start.

“We did have people arriving very early,” said Ms. Turner. “We were set up. Instead of having traffic back up further down the road we started getting those cars in as soon as we were able.”

Ms. Turner anticipates there be a need even when the pandemic subsides.

“We anticipate that the economic impact will continue far after people can start to leave their homes again. We know that people will probably be afraid to frequent some businesses. We know that small businesses have taken a hit from this,” said Ms. Turner. “We exist for times of crisis. We’re here to provide that emergency assistance to people. We are ready to provide our community with the food that they need.”

“Whenever things like this happen you kind of try to look for as much of a silver lining in anything as you can,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “It’s gotten our families closer together, because they are spending more time with each other now. They are eating meals together at the kitchen table, again. And hopefully that sense of closeness will continue when everything opens back up, that one, we can start to really focus on and patronize our local small businesses. Some of them might not reopen after this. It’s really our local small businesses that need the most support.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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