COVID-19 arrived and life, as we know it, changed. Social distancing swept across communities, businesses closed temporarily, and a record number of people became unemployed. Ending Hunger Today has never been more difficult…or more critical.
On March 1, 2020, the President of the United States declared that the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constituted a national emergency. Deemed an “Essential Need” by the state of California, FIND Food Bank responded to this emergency.
Through it all, FIND Food Bank has provided food for our community. At the forefront of fighting hunger, FIND Food Bank provides food to our communities’ local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, church pantries, and other food distribution network partners. FIND also provides food to directly individuals in need through more than 40 Free Mobile Markets and through over 140 distribution venues. But, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, just getting food into our community has now become vastly more complicated.
Amid the social distancing directives, few of FIND’s more than 5,000 incredible volunteers could continue to work at FIND Food Bank. 75% of them are over the age of 65 and are considered by the health department as a high risk population for exposure. Without our volunteers sorting and bagging produce for distribution, and sorting and bagging shelf stable food, the National Guard was called in to help. Then, the California Conservation Corps arrived to help. And, then, the Civil Air Patrol. It has been “all hands on deck” to keep moving food into our community.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the need for food in our community has, not surprisingly, increased dramatically. With record unemployment, the sheer number of people needing food has increased by at least 400%, seemingly overnight. The lines of people waiting for food at FIND Food Bank distributions now require the support of the National Guard, the California Conservation Corps, the Civil Air Patrol, and local law enforcement.
In addition, the safety logistics of food distribution require new accommodations for social distancing. FIND Food Bank has purchased masks, gloves, vests, pop-up tents, tables, clipboards, signage, traffic cones and many other items to preserve the safety of our clients, to meet the requirements for social distancing, and to help manage the ever-increasing lines of people in need.
While managing the increased number of food-insecure people, FIND Food Bank’s food donations are now considerably less than the food that is needed by our community. For the first time, in any significant way, FIND Food Bank is purchasing large amounts of shelf stable foods for the people in our community. As well, supplies of shelf stable food are in high demand, and food availability, even for purchase, presents its own challenges.
Further, to accommodate the increased need for food in our community, FIND Food Bank immediately launched 21 Rapid Response Free Mobile Markets augmenting the existing 22 Free Mobile Markets.
FIND’s Rapid Response Free Mobile Markets are life-support on wheels. Most effective in quickly bringing food assistance to remote areas, FIND Food Bank’s Free Mobile Markets reach the desert’s most isolated and needy communities. FIND’s Free Mobile Markets are specialized, refrigerated trucks filled with up to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, frozen meat, refrigerated products, dairy, bakery, and shelf stable goods destined for distribution. Currently, FIND’s Rapid Response Free Mobile Markets serve the communities of Anza, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Joshua Tree, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Salton City, Thermal, and Thousand Palms.
FIND has also tailored the Free Mobile Market distributions in our service area to observe social distancing mandates. For example, FIND utilizes open air parking lots where FIND can monitor the number of people in the distribution line and where people may remain in their cars until they are called in small groups to receive food. FIND also has piloted “drive through” food distributions.
Moreover, given that a number of FIND’s network of agencies are incapable of creating venues to accommodate social distancing, FIND Food Bank has quickly altered distribution methodologies to be able to provide food to people who are without any other resource.
FIND is committed to Ending Hunger Today, Tomorrow, and for a Lifetime, but Ending Hunger Today, since the advent of COVID-19, sparks a new paradigm in food distribution.
• FIND Food Bank currently is providing food for 190,000 every month – a nearly 110% increase in people in need.
• FIND provides food for the following communities: Anza, Bermuda Dunes, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, Joshua Tree, La Quinta, Mecca, Mountain Center, North Shore, Oasis, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Pinyon Pines, Salton City, Thermal, Thousand Palms, Twentynine Palms, and Yucca Valley.
• According to California Board of Education 2018/19 data, 83% of the Kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Coachella Valley qualify for the federal Student Poverty Free and Reduced-Price Meal Program.
• FIND feeds those most vulnerable to hunger – 42% of our clients are children, and 26% are seniors.
• In 2019/20, FIND Food Bank fielded food distributions from a total of 167 sites throughout our service area including our network of agencies.
• In 2019/20, FIND, committed to healthy food banking, distributed more than 18 million pounds of food, of which nearly 8 million pounds were fresh fruits and vegetables.
• To donate to FIND Food Bank and to locate food distributions, visit FINDFoodBank.org.