DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Just as hospitals, delivery services, retail stores and other industries have been impacted by COVID-19, so have food pantries and grocery operation services in the Miami Valley. 

With God’s Grace and The Foodbank are a few organizations that have made some alterations to their operations to work through COVID-19. Executive director of With God’s Grace, Nicole Adkins, said one of the notable changes community members will see is the is the new structure at their free grocery store.

“For right now, we are not letting people shop in person,” said Adkins. “But what we’re going to be doing starting on Thursday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and then Friday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., is we are going to make bags of food. We are installing an intercom over the weekend…and then you’re going to be picking up your food at another door.”

Adkins said the purpose of the change is to minimize contact between crew members and community members who typically come inside the store to shop, especially since she and other workers found themselves sick with COVID-19 just weeks ago. 

“We caught it from a client that we actually talked to over the phone that had COVID and we told them not to come in and then they came in and I had to address it,” said Adkins. “We tried to sanitize, we tried to disinfect everything immediately, but it still took nine of our team [members] out at one time.”

In efforts to prevent any further spread of the virus, they have also moved to one mobile delivery location on Wednesdays instead of two. The Foodbank has also altered its hours in response to the pandemic, but for their own reasons.

“In 2020 we really ramped up our drive-thru distributions because over 40 percent of our partner agencies at that time were forced to close down because of COVID,” said Lee Lauren Truesdale, chief development officer of The Foodbank. “So of course we opened the drive-thru up for expanded hours in 2020 and we slowly kind of backed those down in 2021 and of course looking at 2022. So effective this week, our drive-thru will be open every Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m. and we’ll be open Thursdays only for seniors in the CSFP box program,” she said.

As of this Wednesday, Truesdale added that The Foodbank is also suspending its home delivery service indefinitely. The service, which at one point during the pandemic was supported by members of the National Guard alongside staff and volunteers, will be replaced by a more formal operation. However, the plan for that new service is still underway.

Truesdale added that while a handful of pantries and grocery operations are making changes to their models, the good news is many of them are still working to fight food insecurity even as the pandemic rages on.

“Almost all of our partner agencies across Montgomery, Greene and Preble Counties they’ve reopened,” said Truesdale. “They know how to operate now through the pandemic, they know what measures they need to take. They’re getting masks from us, they’re getting anything that we can supply to these partner agencies to safely serve folks.” 

Adkins said at With God’s Grace, that also means reminding the community to be extra cautious – asking visitors to the drive-thru to wear a mask during interactions and to clear out their trunks ahead of arrival to minimize the spread of germs. 

For many of these food organizations, that also means bringing on extra volunteers to fill in for those who have gotten sick, experienced schedule changes, or other conflicts that prevent them from getting food to those who need it.

To learn how to volunteer at The Foodbank, click here.

To learn how to volunteer at With God’s Grace, click here.