Food banks continue to serve community during pandemic
By Samantha Jones
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started early this year, local foods banks have served Carroll County residents in need. That’s one thing that will stay the same going into 2021, several food bank representatives reported.
Loaves & Fishes
Fred West, who serves on the board of directors for Loaves & Fishes Food Bank in Berryville, said customers still can’t come inside the food bank to get their items. Instead, West said, they drive around to a window on the side of the building, fill out their information and drive around to the other side where they pick up their food.
“While all that’s going on, our volunteers are inside getting boxes of food ready for these people, and then the boxes of food get carried to the loading dock area for the customer to pick up,” West said. “That way, we have limited contact with them and vice versa.”
So far, West said, the food bank hasn’t had a shortage of food.
“We’ve been busy but not like these things you see on TV where cars are lined up for a mile or something like that,” West said. “It’s not been that busy here. Fortunately, a lot of our employers like Walmart and Tyson haven’t had to lay people off as much as in other parts of the country.”
In the weeks leading up to the holidays, West said, traffic picked up a bit at the food bank.
“The last few weeks especially, it seems like we’ve gotten busier,” West said. “We’ve had more cars lined up waiting to go through.”
West said the food bank gets food through a partnership with the USDA commodities program, along with donations from Walmart, Harter House and other local businesses.
“Both of the major grocery stores in town are very good to us, and we appreciate that,” West said. “Of course, we do buy some food from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.”
West said the food bank gladly accepts cash donations and would love more volunteers. The food bank is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, West said, and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
“If anyone has some time and would like to donate their time to come out and volunteer, we can put them to work,” West said. “We’re certainly thankful for the generosity of the people of Carroll County. I mean, there couldn’t be a better place to live. The people are so generous and giving, and the people that receive food from us are so thankful.”
West continued, “People don’t necessarily want to have to come to the food bank, but they know we’re here if they need us and we’re glad when they do choose to come. A big thank you goes to all our volunteers. It’s an all-volunteer run organization. We just get paid in satisfaction and doing a good deed and, hopefully, making some points with the man upstairs.”
Flint Street Fellowship
Karen Timm, executive director of Flint Street Fellowship Food Bank in Eureka Springs, said the food bank is still open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. No one can come into the building to get their food, Timm said, so volunteers hand out food at the front door.
“A lot of places have a drive-thru, but we just don’t have that ability so folks are coming to the front door,” Timm said. “We’re making sure everyone’s wearing masks and we’re doing the distancing. It’s been getting busier the last month or so.”
Timm continued, “We’re seeing an increase. With Eureka being a tourist area, things close down in the winter and so then folks are out of work. We expected it to be increasing.”
Timm said the pandemic affected Flint Street in the beginning, because some people were too afraid of contracting the virus to come to the food bank.
“We were actually calling folks we hadn’t seen in a while to make sure they were OK,” Timm said. “Some of them said they just weren’t leaving the house. It slowed down for a while at the start of the pandemic, but now it’s picking up.”
Timm said Flint Street is always in need of certain items that aren’t available through its partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. She thanked the local Boy Scouts troop for their food drive in November, saying she “could not believe the outpouring from folks.”
“So many people were involved in it, and it was just amazing to see our shelves, which were looking pretty bare at the time, stocked back up,” Timm said. “That is awesome, but there are other items we can always use like laundry detergent, dish detergent and toilet paper.”
Other items the food bank needs are toothbrushes, toothpaste, pasta, rice, shampoo, conditioner, cooking oil, coats, mittens and foods that don’t need to be refrigerated or cooked.
“For instance, crackers … we can always use crackers,” Timm said. “When we give out soup, we like to give out crackers. Peanut butter and fruit cups are great, too.”
Flint Street is never low on supplies for long, Timm said, and that’s because of generous citizens.
“We just want to thank the community for all they do for us. They’re always giving us a helping hand and it is so appreciated,” Timm said. “We are able to help so many folks with food.”
Timm said Flint Street also accepts donations to the Pat Kasner Angel Assistance Fund, which helps those in need with rent and utility payments.
“Those types of needs have been increasing,” Timm said. “We’re just hoping and praying the pandemic is over soon. With the vaccine coming, we’re really looking up now, so hopefully that will take care of this pandemic and we can get back to normal where our folks can come in and they can have a choice of food.”
Going into 2021, Timm said, Flint Street is working to create healthy recipes to hand out with the food.
“We’re hoping to have recipe pads to give to people so they can know how to cook things healthy,” Timm said. “That’s a work in progress.”
A Cup of Love Ministry
A Cup of Love Ministry in Eureka Springs has had similar experiences to the other food banks, reported co-founder Chuck Jarrett. Jarrett said people can’t eat inside anymore, so the ministry is feeding people outside.
“It started ramping up again here lately. The last three weeks, we’ve been feeding people outside again,” Jarrett said. “We’ve been handing out groceries like crazy, and we’ve been giving them food to-go.”
Jarrett said the ministry has had a hard time finding food lately.
“There’s not a lot to get. We’re having a hard time finding meat and stuff like that,” Jarrett said. “I don’t know what the deal is. We were told food is fixing to get scarce in January, worse than it is now, so we’ve just been chugging along.”
Jarrett said the ministry has been busier than ever over the past few weeks.
“People that have never been homeless before are homeless now, and people that have never been to a food bank are coming to food banks now,” Jarrett said. “It’s like they feel real ashamed about it, and we just try our best to make them feel like it’s OK.”
He continued, “You know, that’s what we’re here for — to help each other out. It’s just been really bad.”
Jarrett said the ministry couldn’t do its annual Christmas events this year because of the virus, saying the ministry went from 30 volunteers to six.
“We’re just running ragged, and we weren’t able to get gifts this year,” Jarrett said. “That just breaks my heart that we couldn’t get presents for people. We weren’t able to hand out turkeys, because there were no turkeys to be found. It’s been a very different year.”
Jarrett said volunteers diligently wear masks, sanitize and keep the distance from one another. If you can’t volunteer, Jarrett said, the ministry would appreciate food donations. He said the ministry accepts almost anything, including bacon, chicken, canned goods, dry goods, sugar, salt and blankets.
“Blankets go as fast as we can get them,” Jarrett said. “We couldn’t do this without our community. We live in the most awesome community. They just support us and they love what we’re doing and they keep on giving.”