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Local pantries prep for a surge in food insecure families during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 6:15 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 19:19:42-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As the COVID-19 pandemic changes the daily life of millions across the globe, families in need become more vulnerable than ever.

"When there is a global pandemic, people still need to eat and still need their food," volunteer Amber Determan said.

Food pantries are filling up their shelves, and volunteers at San Juan Diego Center in South Omaha are working to prepare for a bump in food insecure families.

"I know it's a really scary time and there is a lot of uncertainty right now," volunteer Jenna Whitaker said.

Father Mike Eckley with Catholic Charities says the impacts of this virus go beyond our health. Now, with school out, families in need have to find more food to put on their table.

"When they weren't really ready for them to be there for breakfast and lunch during the school day... now they are going to be home and there is that greater need," Father Eckley said.

As food banks rush to stock up on canned goods, they also are navigating safer ways to serve.

In normal circumstance, those in need would go to the food pantry to pick out their own food. However, now with the increased cases of COVID-19, the charity is filling up boxes for pick up to help reduce exposure.

"This is a way to keep our volunteers and our staff healthy and safe, and a way to keep our clients healthy, also," Father Eckley said.

Mikaela Schuele, Director of Emergency and Supportive Food Service with Catholic Charities, says they serve 250 to 300 hundred people in a normal week.

She adds the time is now to prepare and support all people during these difficult times.

"Stores are limited. The food bank is limited with food and people aren't working," Schuele said. "People need the extra food and we are just trying to do whatever we can to provide that for them."