The South Burlington Food Shelf will continue operations during the COVID-19 pandemic – albeit with some modifications.
Patrick Leduc, one of the food shelf’s organizers, anticipates the need for service may grow amid declining economic conditions.
“My biggest concern is the health and safety of our volunteers and the health and safety of our customers,” Peter Carmolli, the food shelf’s executive director, said.
The food shelf serves a vulnerable segment of the population, Carmolli said. He added food shelf clients need food to stay healthy and fight off disease. Since the Food Shelf’s Nov. 1, 2019, opening, the organization has grown to serve over 400 people from 160 households.
Following a meeting on Monday, March 16, the Food Shelf Advisory Board and Carmolli created a plan to keep the food shelf open, while protecting clients and volunteers.
For now, the food shelf will create to-go bags of food, which volunteers will walk out to clients’ cars. Prior to the pandemic food shelf clients entered the building and perused shelves themselves, selecting an allotted number of foods.
The new service model limits the number of people inside the space and consequently minimizes any potential chance of spreading the virus. The Food Shelf will have two volunteers – down from its usual five or six – per shift, one of whom will work outside distributing food while the other grabs packed food bags from inside the building.
Volunteers have been instructed to take their temperature before serving shifts, Leduc said. If they feel ill, they have been told to stay home.
He added the food shelf is encouraging monetary donations at this time to limit the number of hands touching food.
“Food drives are great, but so many hands and so many people are involved with food drives, that in some ways is adding a little bit of risk,” Leduc said.
But the shelf will still accept food donations. The organization will follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and wait 24 to 48 hours before distributing donated foods, Leduc said.
“Our model has been that if you present as a person that lives in South Burlington and you present that you're hungry and that you need food, if we have food available, we will serve those individuals at some point, obviously … we may end up running out of food,” Leduc said. “Right now, we’re not planning on turning anybody away if we have food.”
Leduc added he was thankful for the public’s support.
“We have a lot of gratitude for the support they’ve provided to the food shelf,” he said. “We'll all get through this together.”
The food shelf will operate on its regular schedule with hours from 5:15-7:15 p.m. on Thursdays, and 8 a.m.-10 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Any changes will be noted on the organization’s website and Facebook page.