The food bank is also dealing with a shortage of certain supplies like dried and canned goods
TULARE COUNTY – Accessing food amid the novel coronavirus pandemic remains a challenge for many Tulare County residents as cases of the disease continue to increase and many people are still out of work.
Nicole Celaya, the executive director of FoodLink, said getting certain supplies has continued to be a problem for a food bank, especially dried and canned goods, while produce has been easier to come by.
“Whether it’s through the network of food banks or our personal vendors, those foods are about a month out at least,” Celaya said.
The organization has seen a significant increase in how much food has been given out since the start of the pandemic. In 2019, the food bank gave out 4 million pounds of food. Just in the last month, FoodLink has supplied families with 560,000 pounds of food, Celaya said.
Not only is FoodLink giving out more food, Celaya said, but many of the people coming for supplies are first timers who didn’t need the organization’s services before.
“A lot of what we are hearing is families who are out of work or who are trying to get food for other family members,” Celaya said. “Luckily our community has been really great about responding to this need.”
FoodLink has also been bringing on more employees and volunteers to help address the increased need, Celaya said. The organization has also received financial support from United Way. The California Association of Food Banks has been a great resource as well, connecting FoodLink to state and federal help, Celaya said.
“Right now is the time to think about how our food system works and this pandemic has only further exposed the problem of food insecurity in this area,” Celaya said. “Food insecurity should not be a thing.”
To help out FoodLink, visit the organization’s web site to volunteer, donate food and donate money to COVID-19 relief fund. If someone is in need of these services, here is FoodLink’s food distribution schedule: new.foodlinktc.org/get-help. Tulare County’s 2-1-1 web site also has information on CalFresh, food pantries and home delivered meals: www.211tularecounty.org/food-index.
To address the needs of students who rely on meals from school, Visalia Unified has been providing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches and optional school work at 16 locations and seven bus stops throughout the district.
As of April 6, the District moved to a new schedule, distributing meals once a week on Mondays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.