In large-scale bulk, Food Bank helps feed the need

Volunteers Desiree and Terence Moore of Seaford are stationed at the tomato soup pallet in preparation for Food Bank of Delaware’s distribution event. Mr. and Ms. Moore are members of Crossroad Community Church, the site for Thursday’s distribution. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — The need to meet the public’s nutritional needs during the coronavirus crisis reached a crossroad in Sussex County Thursday with Food Bank of Delaware’s second of three large-scale bulk food distributions.

Vehicles crept along Seashore Highway (Del. 404) at a snail’s pace headed for Crossroad Community Church, the distribution hub. Traffic backed up about a mile and that was less than an hour into the distribution event that started at 11 a.m.

“The DelDOT guys had the drone up and they said it was backed up about a mile in each direction,” said State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn of Georgetown, among the volunteers on hand.

Vehicles line up around Crossroad Community Church west of Georgetown for the Food Bank of Delaware’s bulk food distribution Thursday. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“People are in panic, and understandably, we have never been through something like this,” said Food Bank of Delaware Communications Director Kim Turner. “We are all anxious. But the Food Bank, we exist for times of crisis. So, we are doing whatever we can to make sure that people who are in need of food assistance will still get it during this time.”

Young volunteers James Kurdes and Lilah Kurdes of Lewes load cases of food into a vehicle during the Food Bank of Delaware’s food dsitribution Thursday at Crossroad Community Church near Georgetown. Looking on in back is their mother, Kerry Bratton. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Food Bank staff, Crossroad church members and volunteers from the community teamed up for the massive distribution that Ms. Turner projected would likely mirror that of the first event held Wednesday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington. In New Castle County, close to 1,200 families were served through distribution of close to 100,000 pounds of food.

“We are anticipating that we probably have similar numbers here as well,” said Ms. Turners.

In anticipation of a large crowd for the third event — in Kent County Friday at 11 a.m., — organizers moved the drive-thru distribution to Dover International Speedway.

“Originally it was planned for outside Legislative Hall,” said Ms. Turner. “But that certainly is not going to be able to accommodate the crowd that we anticipate.”

On Thursday, in Sussex County, pallets of bulk food unloaded from tractor trailers held cases of soup and other canned goods, rice and protein products. Quantities of cases given were based on the number of families to be served.

“We want to make sure we are able to get as much food into the community at this time, in case — and not the Food Bank quarantine — but in case the community members have to go into quarantine. We want to make sure that low-income people have a stock of food in their homes,” Ms. Turner said.

Sen. Pettyjohn said when he left about three hours into the distribution, three more 18-wheel trailers had been brought in and he estimates there were still about 400 cars in line waiting to receive food.

Supply, at least for the foreseeable future, does not appear to be of major concern for Food Bank of Delaware, thanks in part to tariffs on American goods and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“We have been fortunate. Due to the ongoing trade war with the tariffs, with foreign markets, USDA has been purchasing foods from these farmers that typically would sell overseas,” Ms. Turner said. “So, since October 2018 we have been getting truckload upon truckload of food from USDA. Today, we are distributing USDA commodity food that was supplied to us.”

“So, fortunately, we do have this inventory,” said Ms. Turner. “We aren’t sure how long it will last. But right now, we are able to meet the needs of people, in addition to supplying our partner pantries.”

Terence and Desiree Moore, a husband and wife tandem from Seaford, were among the volunteers. They are members of Crossroad Community Church happy to assist in the Food Bank’s effort.

“I am blessed,” said Mr. Moore.

The Food Bank was not short on manpower, or womanpower.

“There were some moms that wanted to get their kids and help out. It was a great cross-section of the community that was there to help out,” said Sen. Pettyjohn. “Down here in our area, we are special here. When times are trying people of all walks of life, from every area come together to help. We see that today. We see that at some of the other events that happen — the food distribution for the schools, the restaurants that are offering free lunches to kids. Everybody chips in to help everybody out down here, and that is one of the amazing things about the area that we are so lucky to live in.”

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, health precautions were taken during Thursday’s food distribution. Those receiving food remained in their vehicles and volunteers were encouraged to practice social distancing.

“We are trying to space out as much as possible, so we can encourage social distancing,” said Ms. Turner. “We’re making sure all of the people who are coming for assistance stay in their car. We’ve asked them to make sure the (vehicle) trunks are cleared out so we can have limited interaction as possible.”

Delaware’s Department of Transportation and Delaware State Police were on hand, assisting in traffic control.

Ms. Turner noted that the distribution in Wilmington did encounter some snafus.

“There was a miscommunication with the police, and they had told people that we were out of food. We weren’t out of food, but the traffic had snarled up from the Chase Center to I-95,” said Ms. Turner. “We did have to do something about the traffic so that people that were trying to get to work or home could go about their business. So, unfortunately some people were turned around because of the traffic. But at the end of the day we served close to 1,200 people. A lot of food did get out to the community. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to serve everybody.”

Ms. Turner encourages anyone in food crisis to contact Delaware 2-1-1, the state’s helpline for human services. “They can dial 2-1-1 or they can visit,” Ms. Turner said.

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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