When COVID-19 hit New York State and closures began to take place, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier was no longer able to safely host traditional Mobile Food Pantries (MFPs), where up to 150 households are served by standing in line to receive grocery items.
In response, the Food Bank and community partners launched Community Food Distributions (CFDs) to help meet the drastic increase in need across our six-county service area. This was an amazing accomplishment, and with the help of many volunteers and partner agencies, we were able to serve up to 500 households at each distribution.
The CFDs have served as a great benefit over the last six months, allowing us to practice safe social distancing while also serving a large quantity of households, especially people who are needing food assistance for the first time. At the same time, we are limited to 10 CFD locations across the region due to the complexity of CFD operations and volume of traffic.
We know that in order to serve as many as households as possible in our 4,000 square mile service area, we must return to using Mobile Food Pantries. One of the greatest benefits of MFPs is that we can deploy up to three trucks a day, which will ultimately allow us to serve more families as we move through the pilot.
As schools, colleges and businesses began to reopen, our team began working behind the scenes with our volunteer-run MFP partners to develop a transition plan. Throughout the fall, more MFP locations will reopen, as we return to a modified MFP model of distribution. These MFPs will use a drive-thru, or in some cases a safe walk-up, distribution model and pre-registration will be required to attend. Registration will open one weekday before the event between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or until full.
Accessing Food Resources
The Food Bank of the Southern Tier cannot serve our community alone. We work with incredible partners, like schools, food pantries and meal sites to feed our neighbors.
We know that more than 40 percent of those attending CFDs are new to the emergency food system and there are so many great resources that are available outside of our MFPs. Food pantries are open across the region, and they have adjusted their distribution models to make it safe for all, and some include drive-thru pick-ups and appointments, all while doing their best to offer choice.
To access all resources available, visit www.foodbankst.org/find-food, or dial 2-1-1 to talk to someone who can refer you to local resources.
(Please note that the feature photo was taken prior to CDC COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.)