IMPERIAL — The Imperial Valley Food Bank on Aten Boulevard in Imperial has enacted several changes in protocol to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 flu virus and meet the needs of its clients during the pandemic.
“We are business as usual and we are going to be doing business as usual. We are going to be having people come in every day and we are still accepting donations,” said Stephanie Campos, agency development assistant.
However, there will be one major change in distribution, Campos added.
“(For) our distributions at the Food Bank there will be drive-thru distribution instead of having people wait in a line,” she said.
Food distribution takes places one a month. The non-profit organization also distributes food to local distribution centers to meet the needs of clients throughout Imperial County.
“The government put some new mandates on us, so our interactions are more limited,” Campos added. “Everyone using our programs needs to sign a form that says they qualify to receive government commodities. Instead of passing the pen to the client, employees will fill out the form for the client.”
Food Bank employees working closest to the general public during the distributions are required to wear gloves, cover their face and wear eye protection, she added.
The Food Bank serves the most vulnerable populations of the community as the elderly and low-income families–many with children–are less likely to keep a stocked pantry and have a greater chance of contracting a virus, officials said.
The Food Bank servs 23,000 individuals a month and has an annual distribution of five million pounds of food.
“We are going to try to implement drive-throughs whenever possible, Sara Griffin, Food Bank executive director said. “We are also taking precautions for staff. We have closed the food bank to volunteers and wear PPE’s (personal protective equipment whenever possible).”
Examples of PPEs are gloves, masks and safety goggles.
Speaking about the distribution center, Griffin explained, “Distribution points still to be determined. No operations have been suspended and we hope they don’t, but it is going to be up to the individual distribution agencies to stop having clients form lines and use drive-throughs.”
Griffin continued, “We wouldn’t be a non-profit pursuing our mission if we close right now. We will continue to serve the public. We have made some contingency plans to be flexible. But Every hour there is new information in this. By the time this article prints, there will probably be changes in our protocol.”
Social Media Role
Social media is probably the best way to find out what is happening with the Food Bank, she added. Find information about the non-profit by searching for IV Food Bank on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Since most local schools have already closed, a concern for many is that children of low-income families will miss out on their first two meals of each day.
Griffin said, “I am proud of our local school districts that they are doing whatever they can. I hope we can develop new way to get food to people.”
Many school districts have enacted meal distributions for students. For more information about your child’s school’s meal distributions contact the Imperial County Office of Education.
The Food Bank will still need help from the public to maintain its operations during this crisis, Griffen said.
“We absolutely need food and funds. We need funds more than food,” she explained. “As a non-profit who is the major supplier of food for the county, we cannot do public events to generate funds during this time. Without that ability to garner public support, supporting us financially is important for us to continue operations.”
People can send a check to the Food Bank at 486 W. Aten Blvd., Imperial, CA, 92251, or visit www.ivfoodbank.com and donate through PayPal.
“The other thing is many people support us monthly through their checking account through their online bill pay,” Griffen added.
“The government has been very helpful knowing the critical role the Food Bank plays in the community,” she said. “They have waived some requirements and are making it easy for people to get assistance. The government is talking about some emergency funding to get more food. I am in contact with our food bank association in the state. We are all collectively working to make sure food banks have food during this crisis.” Griffin ended with an encouraging message: “Keep posted and try to be as vigilant as possible to find the correct information. Following the news is more important than ever. We will be here at the I.V. Food Bank to serve people as best we can during this crisis.”
This story is featured in the Mar 19, 2020 e-Edition.