Tulare County foodbank says the need for emergency food in Ivanhoe has almost doubled during the pandemic
Despite being one of the most productive counties in the United States in terms of agriculture, Tulare County has consistently been characterized by the lack of food security for many families in the region. While many families have reported experiencing difficulties making ends meet, there has also been an overall increase in the need for emergency food provisions in Ivanhoe.
FoodLink for Tulare County is a nonprofit organization that has served nearly every community in Tulare County for years, including Ivanhoe.
Andrea Kelly, outreach and engagement coordinator for FoodLink, describes the organization as a unique entity that uses a holistic food systems approach. Kelly says FoodLink is “the foodbank for the county with a primary focus of emergency food relief. It’s kinds of like a supplement to other programs like WIC, food stamps and social security.”
FoodLink partners with over 70 organizations all over the county to provide food to all residents and also advocates for food system change and increased education in regard to community health by teaching people how to cook and grow their own food.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kelly says that there has been a drastic increase in the need for services and many communities were not utilizing emergency food services to the same degree.
“Before the pandemic, places like Badger didn’t need emergency food,” she said. “Now with this pandemic, even those services aren’t enough for the community. People who are working class have lost their jobs, are diagnosed with COVID-19, or are staying home and they are having to rely on more resources than before.”
The need for emergency food in Tulare County has roughly doubled.
“Just this week alone, all of our distributions hit over 400 families,” Kelly said. “Even in small areas it’s been over 400, especially since some communities like Traver the regular is 200. We have a lot of new clients.”
Services in Ivanhoe during COVID
Ivanhoe has also demonstrated a need for increased services and is now one of FoodLink’s largest sites. Before COVID-19, Kelly said Ivanhoe had 230-300 people coming to events before the pandemic began but are now seeing 300-400 people at each event. COVID has also changed the look and feel of the food events.
“Regular people could come up to the produce and pick them out themselves to create the experience of picking what you want,” Kelly said. “Now all vegetables are bagged and placed into the trunk of the client’s vehicle.”
The monthly food distribution is conducted on the third Friday of the month at the Ivanhoe Church of God. Kelly recommends following Tulare FoodLink on Facebook and Instagram in order to stay up to date with any scheduling changes.
To support more education around healthy foods, FoodLink also hosted in-person educational cooking workshops but has made a shift to digital platforms through its new program called “Cooking around Tulare County”. This program invites community members including Tulare County Supervisor Eddie Valero and Porterville City Councilmember Daniel Penaloza. The videos can be accessed on FoodLink’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
Kelly says from her observations more people are cooking inside their homes.
“The pandemic means a lot of people have to cook now to stay safe and reduce social gatherings,” she said. “People are learning basic skills again. Normal people share these skills with one another in hopes of normalizing being in the kitchen.”
Collaboration is Essential
Collaboration is essential to manage perishable food resources to serve the community the best. Kelly says, “you can totally saturate a community with food. It can rot and go bad if not utilized, if we could spread it out, people can use the resources all month”. Communication with partners and community volunteers is also important since FoodLink for Tulare County is short staffed, like many other nonprofit organizations responding to emergency services during the pandemic.
To assist with FoodLink’s food distribution, Kelly recommends going to www.foodlinktc.org to sign up for service. Volunteers may select which communities they would like to service in 2.5 hour increments. To keep residents safe, FoodLink has additional requirements to limit at risk individuals from participating. These limitations apply to:
- Anyone under the age of 18
- Anyone who may be ill
- Anyone who may have come in contact with the virus
- Anyone in quarantine
- Anyone with compromised immune systems
For follow up questions please contact FoodLink community engagement coordinator, Andrea Kelly at [email protected] or 559-592-0117.