In the wake of a pandemic and the closure of non-essential businesses, Yukon’s food pantries are struggling to keep up with increased need.
“We’re seeing a big increase in numbers,” said Sherri Rogers, director of Yukon’s Manna Pantry. “We’re getting calls from other places that we don’t serve, because there’s apparently quite a few food banks shut down during this time.”
Missy King, director of Yukon Sharing, agreed.
“We’re seeing plenty of people,” she said. “We’re even having people call from other towns that don’t have a food pantry. They’re scared and they’re needing help.”
With experts recommending social distancing to cut down on the spread of COVID-19, King said her nonprofit is keeping its door locked and handling one family at a time.
“They can knock on the door, and once we have their paperwork, they can stay in their car until we have their things loaded,” King said.
King said the items Yukon Sharing most needs right now include antiseptic and sanitizing lotions, along with canned meat and nonperishable snack-type foods.
Workers wear gloves and masks during their shifts and sanitize the facility at the beginning of each day.
They also sanitize the facility after each client in an effort to minimize the chance of a client, volunteer or staff member getting sick.
“We also ask each client to use hand sanitizer before they touch pens or any of the paperwork they fill out for us,” King said.
Manna Pantry has also been keeping as much space as possible between clients.
“Because it’s such close quarters in our facility, we’ve been asking clients to stay in their cars and just line up, and we’ve been pre-packaging groceries for them and taking them out,” Rogers said.
Both organizations added that keeping their volunteers safe and healthy is a priority, and Rogers said Manna Pantry is seeking more volunteers.
“Many of my volunteers are in the age bracket that is most at risk,” King said.
“My volunteer population is 65-plus for the most part,” Rogers noted. “A lot of them have compromised immune systems,” or family members with compromised immune systems.
Currently, Yukon Sharing is offering only food, King said. Normally, the nonprofit also provides clothing and housewares to the people it serves.
“We feel like food is the main thing people are really needing,” King said. “There’s almost nothing at the stores, and a lot of the people we’re working with may work but have had their hours cut, or they’re being laid off. A lot of these people have never been in a situation where they’ve had to ask for help.”
To further complicate the situation, many families now have children at home all day as well.
“It takes more food than we would deal with on a regular basis, because kids were eating at daycare or school,” King said. “We want to make sure families have everything they need, but also that there are snacks for the kids. We want to try and keep things as normal as possible for kids – it’s bad enough for us adults.”
King thanked the community for its response to Yukon Sharing’s sudden increased need.
“We’ve had an outpouring from the community of donations,” King said. “Goods, money. It’s humbling. This is an amazing town, and people are jumping in to do everything they can to help us help as many people as we can.”
What causes the most concern for Rogers, she said, is the spike in new clients.
“We served 85 families last week, and of those, 34 were new,” Rogers said.
Typically, January, February and March are slow months for Manna Pantry.
Before the spread of COVID-19, the organization averaged two or three new clients per shift.
“Now we’re having 10, 11, 12,” Rogers said. “We’re just doing the best we can. I made an extra order here to the regional food bank. We’re just going to have to order more until this blows over.”
Yukon Sharing is located at 4 N. 6th St. in Yukon. Its hours are noon to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 9 to 11 a.m. the first Saturday of each month, and the organization may be reached at 354-9456.
Manna Pantry is at 123 S. 6th St. in Yukon. Its hours are 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, along with 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday and 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday.
For more information, call 265-0193.