As stimulus check money and extra food stamps run low, the Beatrice Community Food Pantry has seen a surge in demand, but also a boost in donations.
Roughly 9.3% of Gage County residents were unemployed as of April according to the Nebraska Department of Labor, slightly above the 8.6% state average.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in March, Pantry Coordinator Karen Mains said they planned to remain open as long as St. John Lutheran Church, where the pantry is located, was open, and as long as they have food to give. Mains said the pantry did not close once or need to give people less items than they asked for.
Mains acknowledged the community for donating more than average for this time of year.
“The first three weeks of the pandemic, we were so swamped,” Mains said. “We just kept doing orders all day. We did more than we could really normally do.”
The Community Food Pantry, as well as 49 other food banks across the country, also received a large donation of a refrigerator from Midwest Dairy Farm Families through their Undeniably Dairy grant.
To qualify for the grant, a local dairy needed to submit an application. Travis Lang from KLS Dairy in Pickrell did so, knowing the pantry could use the added refrigeration.
“We want to make sure the community has what they need so they can serve the people who need it,” Lang said.
Midwest Dairy released a statement saying the donations will serve an estimated 55,877 people.
“With school and business closures, many local food banks need additional refrigeration to meet the high demand for dairy products for families in need,” the statement said. “This was also an opportunity for dairy farmers to engage in their local community during this time when on-farm events and community gatherings have been cancelled due to social distancing recommendations.”
The refrigerator is currently stocked with butter and produce, and Mains said she plans to add milk when they can keep it in stock. She said the pantry is also in need of condiments, jelly, pancake mix, syrup, potatoes, bread items, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, bar soap, coffee, tea, kids’ snacks, canned carrots and popcorn.
The pantry is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m., and the last Tuesday of each month from 1-4 p.m.
With social distancing complicating efforts to distribute food, the pantry takes orders over the phone and then places the sack of food with the individuals’ names on it by the door.
Anyone requiring food from the pantry or wanting to make a donation can call 402-223-5306 for more information.