COVID-19 crisis increases demand at food pantry

COVID-19 crisis increases demand at food pantry

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - With thousands of Mississippians filing for unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations such as food pantries are having to step up even more.

The faith-based Edwards Street Fellowship Center food pantry in Hattiesburg says the week of March 16 is really when the panic that comes with COVID-19 hit the pantry.

“We gave out over 1,100 grocery bags of food that week, which is, an average week, depending on how just how busy it is, it could be anywhere from 500 to 700 bags of food,” said executive director Ann McCullen.

McCullen said in the month of March, they had 175 new families sign up for food pantry services.

“Things have changed," McCullen said. "The number one thing we’re hearing is job loss, and then the second biggest thing that we’re hearing is that people have had their hours reduced, sometimes drastically.”

When it comes to getting supplies for the pantry in bulk, they are actually under the same restrictions as the public.

“The same restrictions that have been placed for families and customers in grocery stores and wholesale clubs and things like that apply to us as well,” McCullen said.

Despite this, McCullen said they have new supply chains, restaurants are donating food and they are working with other nonprofits. She also said they are in good shape and ready to tackle this pandemic until it’s over.

“The fear and the anxiety are real, and some people cope with that by making jokes, some people are crying, some people are angry," McCullen said. "So we are just trying to show love and lots of compassion to everybody who walks through the door.”

They are also following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for their employees and those who come to the center as it relates to COVID-19.

For more information and to see the full services they provide, visit their website at EdwardsStreetFellowship.org.

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