Feeding Chittenden changes food distribution amid COVID-19 concerns

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Burlington-area food bank, Feeding Chittenden, is changing how it distributes food In light of coronavirus concerns.

Starting this week, recipients can't get the usual hot meal inside. Instead, they can line up outside the building to grab prepackaged groceries volunteers hand out.

Feeding Chittenden leaders say there's always a need of donations, but because food is flying off all the shelves in our region, they can hardly restock fast enough.

"We haven't encountered anything like this," said the organization's Anna McMahon.

She says life-saving supplies are now hard to find and that the community relies on them including refugees, new Americans and working-class families.

McMahon says she anticipates the demand for meals will skyrocket throughout the county as employees are forced to stay home and that they will ramp up their home delivery program, targeted toward older adults and people with disabilities.

"If they're missing a paycheck, they're going to probably need to rely on emergency services like food shelves," said McMahon.

But McMahon says Feeding Chittenden's resources are being depleted quickly as many Vermonters hoard supplies critical to keeping the pantry open, specifically hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

"For a facility like this, the scale of it that we have, it's even more difficult," said McMahon.

McMahon says even for food shelves, cleaning supplies are on backorder. She says now more than ever, Feeding Chittenden needs monetary donations, so leaders can buy those resources when they become available.

McMahon says it's up to the community to keep vulnerable Vermonters safe and their bellies full amidst this uncertainty.

"They're not sure of how else they're going to be able to provide for their family," said McMahon.

She says they are taking it day by day and that they are doing everything they can to keep their doors open. They say if everything is shut down and people have to quarantine, they'll likely have to reduce hours and services.

The food shelf is also changing how food is distributed, opting for packaged meals, so, they're looking for items like reusable grocery bags. WCAX contributed 200 re-usable bags to the effort on Tuesday.