Food pantries in Huntingdon County have seen an increase in need while they are stepping up efforts to reduce the possibility of spreading the COVID-19 disease.
“Yes, we are seeing a bigger need,” said the Rev. Brian Myfelt of the First United Methodist Church in Mount Union who runs the Mount Union Food Pantry. “We had a few signups today from people who have been laid off. We’re running pretty efficiently otherwise.”
Although more people are coming in for help, the number of donations have decreased.
“As far as the donations themselves, we haven’t had a lot at the moment. The Elks Club told us they are trying to get a donation to us soon, but we aren’t getting as many of the walk-in donations. The various churches that would typically bring it along most are not meeting. Those are the major differences that we’ve noticed,” said Myfelt. “The Central PA Food Bank is trying to help us out by putting items on the free list, like eggs, milk and other things we normally have to purchase.”
Self-Declaration of Need forms have been temporarily waived for those visiting food pantries across the state to reduce contact.
“The state lifted requirements that visitors have to do signatures on self-declarations. What we’ve done at ours is we’re filling out paperwork and signing on their behalf which eliminates handling pens. Our food pantry is a pre-boxed pantry anyways, which helps.”
The Mount Union Food Pantry plans to remain open from 9-11 a.m. every Tuesday and produce is available every third Tuesday of the month.
“We’ve taken extra precautions with produce, so now you have to wear gloves to choose produce, and only four people at a time,” said Myfelt.
He noted that the easiest way to help is to send a financial donation to 15 W. Shirley St., Mount Union, so the pantry can then purchase food items from Sandy Ridge Market or the Central PA Food Bank.
At the Huntingdon Area Food Pantry, new practices are in place, too.
“We do all the paperwork outside and come and get the bags when they’re finished. It’s less contact that way,” said Jean Feagley, administrator of the pantry.
She expects that, “it’ll probably be about the same for our clients,” but she believes there won’t be a significant increase or decrease in donations.
Auxiliary Captain Philip Bender of the Huntingdon County Salvation Army has noticed a change of pace at their facility in Huntingdon.
“Everything is going on as normal, nothing has slowed down here as far as our operations. Many people have come in for food boxes, that has increased. People have been calling in and wondering if we’re still open and doing our social services. Unless we hear otherwise from the government, we will not be closing,” he said, reassuring the public he and his wife, Charity, also an auxiliary captain of the corps, are here to serve those in need.
Bender said folks are helping the Salvation Army, too.
“We’ve had some donations, and when this is over we’ll probably see more. A lot of people being out of work are holding on but there are folks who are helping us,” he said.”I think a lot of people are going to wait until dust has settled. Donations haven’t stopped, just slowed down a little, which we completely understand. Huntingdon has always done so well for us.”
The Salvation Army recently provided food for the Huntingdon Area School District Backpack Program for students in need, as well as the Juniata Valley area Backpack Blessings program.
Bender said that if any other school districts need assistance they can contact the Huntingdon County Salvation Army.
Overall, he is optimistic about the future and sees a strong local community.
“The Lord has given us strength during this time and the people coming in are very calm and very welcoming,” he said.
Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.