The COVID-19 pandemic has brought dramatic changes to everyone’s lives and daily routines, including the operation of the food bank at the Kendalwood Seventh-day Adventist Church in Whitby, Ont.
Before the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Kendalwood food bank was a place of warmth for both staff and clients. Routine days began with staff worship and then preparation to unload and organize goods that would come from the Feed the Need truck. Staff members were always equipped with gloves as they served and participated in the regularly anticipated sit-down lunches. In the evenings, clients would come in to pick up their boxes of goods.
Clients were always greeted with smiles and hugs, and an offer to have their blood pressure checked and receive counsel on health by volunteer nurses. Warm soups and pizza from Domino’s Pizza were also given. If clients wanted someone to talk to or pray with, volunteers were available. Birthday and anniversary celebrants were sung to. Then, COVID-19 came and everything changed.
On Monday, March 16, Marcia White, director of the Kendalwood food bank, was given notice that while the food bank could still operate, logistics were changing by the hour, so protocols would need to change just as quickly.
The councillor of Whitby, Maleeha Shahid, contacted the food bank to ask how she could help. Marcia communicated the food bank’s needs and Coun. Maleeha provided contacts that could assist. Whitby’s mayor, Don Mitchell, dropped off masks so that food bank staff could protect themselves. Further, Coun. Shahid not only volunteered her time at the food bank but also took much needed supplies, such as individual bags for packing groceries, diapers, oils, rice, and much more. Shahid even helped to promote the food bank by creating a video outlining the food bank’s needs, which has been posted on YouTube. Within minutes of the video being posted, the food bank began receiving items from the community.
Now the Kendalwood food bank’s new normal includes daily disinfection of working areas, including tables and railings, by a volunteer. In addition, the volunteer must restock the disinfecting table at the food bank’s entrance with sanitizer and masks. Volunteers must sanitize and mask themselves upon entry, then go downstairs, where they do a thorough handwashing, get their temperature checked, put on gloves, and finally sign in with their temperature recorded.
The food bank now uses different areas of the Kendalwood church to reduce close contact of staff and establish social distancing. Instead of having clients pack their boxes, food bank staff pack bags and give them to clients in the order they arrive. The food bank’s new system resembles a drive-through pickup service. Deliveries are made to seniors and clients in quarantine.
In general, all clients are very thankful that they are able to continue receiving food. The food bank has noticed that everyone has been more giving since the pandemic. In fact, the Kendalwood food bank states that it has received the most food in their entire operational history! And not only has more food been donated, but better-quality food. The number of clients has increased by 40 percent, but the food bank thanks God for the ability to supply most of their needs, with 75 percent of the boxes having perishable food items (fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, yogurts, milk, cheese, and butter).
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastation to many, but it has also brought out the best in many more.
—Marcia White, director, Kendalwood Foodbank