Food bank and pantries see increased need due to COVID-19

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EVANSVILLE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies is seeing an increase in orders and has new protocols in place due to COVID-19.

Boxes of food stored in the Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies warehouse in Evansville, Wyo. on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.

Before entering the food warehouse, everyone must wash their hands.

Staff are also asking people if they’re exhibiting any potential virus symptoms.

“What that means is is that we’re making sure that our warehouse is safe and clean and those people that are entering it are also virus-free,” Wyoming of the Food Bank of the Rockies CEO Tony Woodell said.

Drivers also wear gloves when making deliveries to food pantries throughout the state.

Woodell said most of the food isn’t affected by COVID-19 because the virus won’t live on it.

He said people are using social distancing and letting only a small number of people in the warehouse at once to avoid spreading the virus.

Despite these restrictions, orders are increasing because more people are relying on food pantries because they’re losing their jobs as the economy tumbles with the spread of the virus.

“We’ve seen a tremendous uptick in the number of agencies that are requesting food from us and then we’ve also seen a tremendous uptick in the orders that we’re receiving from those agencies that we already have a relationship with,” Woodell said.

He said the shelves are full and the food bank is ready for more customers.

“The need’s great. And that’s why the food bank exists, not only to meet everyday needs of people that are hungry but in situations like this we really have to step up our responsibilities and our duties,” Woodell said.

Joshua’s Storehouse and Distribution Center in Casper is one of those food pantries serving more people.

“We’re serving a lot more people now because of the lack of work and people having their children out of school, which also increases the food budget for them, which essentially increases the food budget for us,” Joshua’s CEO Kim Perez said.

But the increased need is putting a massive financial strain on Joshua’s and Perez is concerned about its long-term effects on the pantry.

“This is just March and our budget is going to be gone for the year,” she said. “If we make it through the end of next month at this rate we’ll be lucky.”

To deal with COVID-19, Joshua’s is only distributing food by appointment only.

Both Joshua’s and Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies need more volunteers to help meet increased demand.