COVID-19 Town Hall: Food Bank director discusses growing need

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KOMU 8's Emily Spain talks with Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri Executive Director Lindsay Lopez about the growing need for food assistance in mid-Missouri. 

Lopez discusses how the food bank has made adjustments to staff, what to do if you want to help out and if you are in need of food assistance, what you should know. You can read her answers below.

Q: How has the need for food assistance grown in our area in the past few weeks?

"I can tell you that we have definitely seen an increase in the number of people that we are serving throughout our service area. We're seeing a number of people who are visiting a pantry for the very first time."

Q: If you need help, what should you do?

"So, I think just important to know at the food bank this is what we do. We want to get food into the hands of people who need it. If you've never been to a pantry before and you're concerned about what that might be like, please don't worry. Go to our central pantry here in Columbia, go to any of those partner agencies that we work with and know that you will encounter people there who truly care about you and your circumstances and they just want to help you."

Q: If you want to help the food bank, what can you do?

"We have unfortunately decided to suspend our volunteer shifts right now, we're doing that really for the volunteers' safety above all. But, if people want to help the food bank during this interim period, the best thing that they can really do is serve as an ambassador for us. We have a great presence on social media. We are constantly putting informational things out there. We have discontinued food drives at this time because we don't want to do anything that creates even more of a demand in local grocery stores throughout our service area. If they want to do a virtual food drive on our behalf to raise funds instead of food, we can take that money and because of our purchasing power we can stretch that a lot farther than the average consumer can."

Q: What is the food bank doing to keep its staff safe?

"We are using masks, we are using disposable gloves, everything we possibly can. So, we are following the CDC closely, we're following the suggested guidelines from the city and county health department here and throughout the 32 counties that we serve. And, of course, we are working closely with Feeding America."

The food bank recently hired 20 temporary full-time workers through a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The new employees started Tuesday and help fill the gap of the volunteers. The grant aimed to help both the food bank and people who had recently lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more information on getting help from the food bank or if you want to give back, check out the organization's website here and its Facebook page here.