It’s been almost one month since the Coronavirus took hold here in Delaware uprooting our daily way of life. The economic ramifications in Delaware and across the country have been far reaching. Here at the Food Bank of Delaware, we are on the front lines of this devastating economic upheaval. Families who once donated their money, time and food to the Food Bank, are now in need of services themselves. The essential services of the Food Bank of Delaware and our network of partners are needed now more than ever.
When Delaware’s first Coronavirus case was announced on March 11, our team began to take action to prepare our continuity of service plans. Our volunteer base had already decreased by 80 percent in the days leading up to the first announced case. What started as a ban on community gatherings larger than 100 on March 12 quickly turned into a ban of gatherings more than 50 on March 16. As each day passed, new restrictions were put in place to keep Delawareans in safe. With each new restriction, the Food Bank leadership team reevaluated our business plan to determine how to best move forward in order to keep staff, volunteers and partners safe, while also ensuring that vulnerable members of our community still had access to food.
With initial restrictions and school closures, our goal was to get as much food to as many people as possible. To accomplish this, we planned three mass drive-thru distributions in each Delaware county on March 18, 19 and 20.
Officials advised Delawareans to have two-weeks’ worth of food in their homes in case of a mandatory quarantine. For limited-income Delawareans, stocking up is no easy feat.
We announced the mass distributions to the public on Monday, March 16. By that evening, Governor John Carney announced the mandatory closure of Delaware restaurant dining rooms and bars. Service was limited to takeout and delivery only, resulting in thousands of unemployed Delawareans overnight.
By Wednesday, our Facebook post advertising our Wilmington distribution at the Chase Center on the Riverfront had been viewed close to 150,000 times. We knew we would have a crowd, but did not expect traffic to stretch from the Chase Center on the Riverfront to the Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd./Maryland Avenue ramp off I-95. Thanks to the support of the Wilmington Police Department and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), we were able to mitigate traffic. Our distribution would not have been possible without volunteers from the Wilmington Blue Rocks and other organizations. We were better prepared for large crowds the next two days in Georgetown and Dover, thanks to the support of DelDOT, Delaware State Police, Dover Police Department, Crossroad Community Church and Dover International Speedway.
Over the course of three days we distributed 765,632 pounds of food to 5,000 households. To distribute that much food in three days is astounding. For the entire month of February, we distributed 1.1 million pounds of food. Pictured to the right is an aerial view of the crowd lined up to receive assistance in Dover on March 20.
Since our last mass distribution on March 20 at Dover International Speedway, we have been busy distributing food through our network of partners, holding special pop up distributions throughout the state, partnering with local schools to distribute meal boxes and weekend meal bags for kids and serving families through our Healthy Pantry Centers in Newark and Milford.
To help protect the health of Delawareans and to prevent an overcapacity of the healthcare system, additional restrictions have been put in place. Governor Carney has modified his state of emergency several times and issued a stay-at-home order and directed non-essential businesses to close until May 15 or until the public health threat is eliminated to help flatten the curve.
All of these efforts have been made in order to help save lives. Today, our economy is in a state not seen in generations, unemployment claims are at a staggering rate and more Delawareans are without a paycheck.
The Food Bank of Delaware is continuing our important mission because we know Delawareans are depending on our services. We are working to maintain efficient operations in a manner that is safe for staff, volunteers, partners and our neighbors in need. All staff, volunteers and visitors must conduct a health screening before they are allowed to enter the building. We take social distancing seriously. Everyone must be 6 feet or more apart from each other. Our staff and volunteers are wearing masks. Food distributions have turned into drive up and drive-thrus. If drive ups and drive thrus are not possible, we ensure that all families who need to utilize our services understand the importance of social distancing. Even without our regular army of 30+ volunteers per shift, we are still doing everything possible to meet the emergency food needs of Delawareans.
We could not serve the thousands or more Delawareans we do, without the support of our community. We are thankful that so many organizations and individuals have stepped up to help us address increased demands for food assistance. From food and funds donors to volunteers, it is truly taking all of us to meet these unprecedented demands.
From the bottom of our Food Bank of Delaware heart, THANK YOU!
If you want to get involved in our COVID-19 relief efforts or you are in need of assistance, please click here.