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High Demand And Extra Precautions Put Added Stress On Food Pantries

Hoosier Hills

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard is only taking food from Hoosier Hills Food Bank right now to avoid possible contaminants. (Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News)

Under Indiana's new guidelines set Monday in response to the spread of the coronavirus, bars and restaurants are limited to carry-out service only. 

But this leaves nonprofit food providers such as Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard unsure of their next steps.

Amanda Nickey is the CEO of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Bloomington. She says she received a notice from the Monroe County Health Department about service limitations for restaurants, but otherwise hasn’t received any instruction.

“But we’re not a restaurant," she says. "But we’ve had no one reach out to us to tell us what we should be doing, what we can be doing.” 

She says to minimize risk of exposure to the coronavirus, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard has moved its food distribution service outside. People come up to an outside tent space and receive a box of groceries. 

In the rain, they've been doing drive-up services. 

"It's little prodcution line," Nickey says. "Kind of packing boxes and tossing them out the truck bay, asking folks what kind of meat they want and putting it out on a table that's six feet from where we're working and having folks approach and take the box and put it in their car."

The nonprofit is operating only with staff members right now, and no volunteers. This leaves them with six people to box and distrubute food.

Nickey says the nonprofit’s services are in high demand this week because many families can’t afford to buy in bulk.

"There's still hundreds of people coming everyday," she says. "So traffic is back up down Allen Street. We're seeing even more people that just can't find food other places I think."

Because of added demand from people who are out of work or have reduced hours, Nickey says she doesn’t have time to seek out guidance for how the food pantry should operate. 

The city and county do not have jurisdiction over the operations of Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. 

Julio Alonso is the executive director at the Hoosier Hills Foodbank. He says his organization's mission is collect and distribute food to nonprofits like MHC. 

Alonso says many of the food pantires in the community are in the same boat right now trying to provide food for greater numbers of people.

Officials with the Monroe County Health Department say they've been sending out the same information to all food establishments about advised actions to take.

Nickey says United Way of Monroe County launched a COVID-19 Emergency Releif Fund to support immediate economic stability and basic needs in Monroe, Owen, and Greene counties. But she wants to see more action to support vulnerable communities during this time from city and county government. 

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here. 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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