Pantry Leaders Cope With COVID-19

Our food pantries are on the front line of relieving food insecurity for our community members. The Better Living Center in Spokane, Washington, has been providing support to about 400 families representing 1,200 people each month for many years. Many of our clients are seniors who also receive special help, a “senior box,” each month. Recent weeks have seen many more clients than usual arriving for help.

Since most of our volunteers are in the high-risk age category of people who should not volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic, we have had a number of younger people come forward to keep the help flowing. Our staff are employing creative ways of serving people without endangering our volunteers or our clients.

Wendy Urbin, Adventist Community Services administrative assistant, stepped in to lead out in feeding the hungry. Each day she leads the volunteers in prayer for guidance as they interact with the people. She meets the clients outside to take their information. They stand behind cones marking a safe distance. Clients then go back to their cars.

Soon another volunteer comes out with a cart full of food to place in their open trunk. Some colder days require Urbin to dress in a warm coat and gloves. Meanwhile, inside the center, volunteers are entering information into the computer, packing produce into plastic bags and filling the orders for families of one person or even a dozen.

Urbin reports people are freely expressing their gratitude that the center remains open to serve. “I just got laid off and need food to feed my family. Thank you so much,” clients say frequently. “We went to our regular food bank and were told to come to you. We hope you can help us.”

We usually serve residents of three local zip codes. During the current crisis, Second Harvest, our main food source, has asked us to serve people who come, no matter their zip code. That translates to our serving many new families.

It is a privilege to see the volunteers serving with joy in these troubled times, as the Bible calls us to do: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you fed Me …’” (Matt. 25:34–35).