BOONE — Beginning Monday, July 27, local Second Harvest Food Bank agency partners Hunger and Health Coalition, Casting Bread Ministries, Greenway Baptist and Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina began requiring clients accessing their respective drive-thru food pantries to wear a face covering.
Hunger and Health Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Young said, “We are continuing to make adjustments and pivot to best ensure the safety of our community as we look to accomplish our mission of providing nutritious foods to our neighbors most affected by this crisis. Effective measures to decrease physical contact within our community are essential to decreasing the spread of COVID-19.”
The four Watauga County hunger relief agencies have continued operating throughout the COVID- 19 pandemic, albeit with significant changes to the way that food is delivered to their clients. Each food pantry operates as “client choice,” meaning that in normal times, clients come inside and shop for their groceries, picking out the produce, dairy and shelf-stable items that best suit the needs and tastes of their household.
In March, right at the onset of the current pandemic, each organization made the shift to drive-thru service or walk-up only for their food pantries, delivering pre-packed boxes and bags of food to clients as they waited in their vehicles or to get back on the bus.
Hospitality House Executive Director Tina B. Krause said, “We pride ourselves on being a client choice food pantry — even renaming our pantry ‘The Bodega.’ While it saddened us to temporarily have to suspend this practice, we knew that it was in the best interest for the health and safety of everyone involved to do so. Requiring a face covering of our food pantry clients, which we already do for staff, volunteers and housing clients, is simply the next step in trying to keep people healthy.”
Face-coverings should be worn properly, covering both the nose and the mouth, and can include disposable masks, KN95 masks, washable cloth masks, bandanas, scarves or any other material that can effectively cover the intended area.
The agencies will attempt to provide a face covering to those without one; however, this is contingent on the availability of masks. Clients should make every effort to secure a face covering prior to visiting the food pantries on Monday, July 27.
“The clients we all serve are resilient, most facing tremendous challenges prior to COVID-19,” said Sam Garrett, executive director of Casting Bread Ministries. “While we certainly don’t want to add any burden. The changes are being made out of an abundance of caution due to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this pandemic. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we adapt to keep everyone safe.”
Community members in need of food assistance can visit Hunger and Health Coalition Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.; Casting Bread Ministries Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.; Greenway Baptist Pantry on Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.; and Hospitality House from noon until 4 p.m. seven days a week.