Person Power During the Pandemic
By Kelli Hess
Almost everything at MFB&CC has changed since the onset of this pandemic. We used to have coffee and pastries at the front of our Store; our neighbors could sit and read the paper, or have a conversation with a stranger, before their shop. Kids played in EmPower Place. Our kitchen was full of volunteers, customers, donors, and people who had never stepped foot in our food bank before – all taking the same cooking class.
So many things are different now, in so many ways.
We’ve adjusted our services so that almost everything is Grab-n-Go. Now, customers who visit our food bank are in our Store for one or two minutes. We went from having 700+ volunteers each month to only having a handful of volunteers at the food bank each week. Since March, we have seen more unique Missoulians needing nourishment than ever before. We know that we serve some of our most vulnerable neighbors. In these trying times it’s so important for us to be able to offer emergency food assistance without disruption.
We know it is our responsibility to keep our team and our customers as safe as we can.
We have transitioned our staffing from many many helpers to having as few people as possible in the building at any given time. Everyone at the food bank wears masks. Staff and volunteers wear gloves and wash hands often. We have split our staff into two teams. One team, the “store team”, works at the food bank. The second team, “the home team”, is working from home and are on-call for when/if a member of the store team tests positive for COVID-19. Both teams a have a limited number of incredible volunteers who offer 10 or more hours per week of their time. To keep pace with the growth in need over all our services, we have had to bring on a handful of temporary employees, an unbudgeted but necessary expense. And the plan is working. We continue offering high quality nutrition to our friends and neighbors while limiting the exposure of our staff and volunteers.
The part of our food bank that hasn’t changed is the sense of community.
Our staff team has stepped up to this challenge, and the volunteers that have been working continue to be the most loving and kind people you’ll ever meet.
We consider ourselves lucky to be in a community that continues to support the work that we do.
While we can’t wait for this pandemic to end, we want our community to know that we’re doing ok. Our plan is working, and with the support of this community, more food is going out to more people than ever before.
Donate to our 35th Annual Holiday Drive to help nourish those in our community living with less. Donate today at https://bit.ly/2qMOpMc.