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Drive-thru dining

Food pantry feeds families through pandemic

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COM volunteer Hal Kelly walks between vehicles on scene at the drive-thru food pantry.

Community Outreach Ministries executive director Micah Titterington knows hunger in his community doesn’t stop in times of global pandemic. 

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Titterington and Bledsoe help a family in a vehicle fill out paperwork.

Because local ordinances have suspended the types of large gatherings that would normally frequent COM’s food pantry, Titterington said the organization has opted for a different distribution method. 

Families and individuals, who would normally walk through the pantry to pick out items, will now drive their cars nearly up to the pantry’s door. 

It’s how Titterington said the organization is working to help those who he said the coronavirus and subsequent economic turmoil may disproportionately affect — those in need. 

The organization’s distribution days — from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays and Saturdays — are unchanged.

“Any given distribution day, between 30 and 60 families come through our building,” Titterington said. “Normally, they’d all gather in the lobby. We knew we needed to change that up. But, at the same time, we don’t want to shut down the pantry.”

The executive director explained the situation in a Tuesday, March 17, news release.

“(COM) will still have our food pantry open at regular times, but we are switching to a drive-thru model through the rest of March and possibly into April,” a news release from COM reads. “Instead of clients walking through the pantry and picking out their items, we will have items pre-bagged and have clients drive into our warehouse to pick up their food. We are doing our best to keep the quantity of food similar to what clients ordinarily would receive.”

According to the release, COM will be distributing pantry food, senior boxes and products funded federally though the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

According to the release, COM is asking clients not to show up early before distribution times to avoid traffic flow issues. 

“Clients will be receiving the same items regardless of the time they stop by,” the release states.

Tuesday’s distribution was a success, Titterington said Wednesday. 

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Tim Collins, at left, loads a pickup with grocery items inside the warehouse Tuesday, March 17. 

“I am tired, but it overall went pretty smoothly,” he said. “We were able to feed 47 families, and we finished with time to spare. I think we have just a few small things to tweak.”

With local and federal guidelines pushing for smaller and smaller gatherings, he said COM staff recognized they still had a need to fill.

“We recognize that the people we deal with are dependent on the food from us,” he said. “We wanted to help them while still practicing safe practices for volunteers and clients.”

While the shelter normally allows clients to select their own products, food is now pre-bagged and loaded into vehicles by COM staff, he said. Clients check with a staff member first, and food distributions are determined by household size, he said. 

“They’re able to just stay in their car and roll the window down,” he said. “That’s how we’re minimizing interpersonal contact.”

COM does have needs, he said. 

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Tim Collins, at left, and Robert Kiger, pull a grocery cart of food items toward a vehicle Tuesday. 

Several of the organization’s volunteers are older and are self-quarantining, he said. 

“That creates just a little shortage for us,” he said. 

Volunteers bag food Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and may also help distribute food. Titterington said the organization needs extra help on Thursdays. 

Food products, including fresh meat and produce, are also needed right now, he said. Due to concerns over food shortages, several grocery stores and restaurants that provide food for the organization have had less to give recently, he said.

Despite that, he said he’s happy with the work they’ve been able to do. 

“So far, it’s worked pretty well,” he said. 

For more information, call 777-8589 or email info@bolivarcom.org.

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