Without another shipment, shelves will be bare next week

Pierce County Food Pantry is running low on supplies in a time when many more clients may soon need their services as local businesses remain shuttered and the statewide shelter-in-place order has been extended through April 30 due to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The pantry has received monetary donations in recent weeks, but Supervisor Brenda Sutton hasn’t been able to buy food stables in bulk to restock the pantry because many stores are no longer offering that option during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re running short of food because it’s simply impossible to purchase food in large quantities,” Sutton says.

Grocery stores are struggling to stay stocked for customer demand these days, much less for bulk buying.

“I’m trying to find one that will work with me,” Sutton says.

Sutton has also contacted wholesale companies, but often their canned food items come in larger sizes than the Food Pantry normally distributes per family.

The Food Pantry’s current supply will last for another week, Sutton estimates.

“After that I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” she says.

How can we help?

The Food Pantry needs community donations to make up for their inability to purchase food in bulk right now. And, Sutton has set up plastic bins outside the Pantry on Hendry Street for folks to drive by and drop off donations without ever leaving their vehicle.

The bins, located at 712 Hendry Street (the same building where the Senior Center is housed), will be out for donations from 10 a.m. - noon Tuesday and Thursday and from 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Sutton and her volunteers will sanitize all donated items before adding them to the Food Pantry stock.

Don’t make an extra trip to donate, Sutton says, but if you’re going to the grocery store or in town for another essential service, your donation would be greatly appreciated.

“That way we’re still staying within the COVID regulations (to shelter in place),” Sutton adds.

Right now, Sutton is manning the Food Pantry with limited volunteers  — her husband and two teenage grandchildren. They’re all wearing masks when they serve clients and Sutton is even giving out masks to clients who don’t have one.

Most of the Food Pantry regular volunteer team are senior citizens and Sutton sent them home weeks ago.

“I’ve asked all of them to stay home and stay safe,” she says.  “We kept it just with my family … I can’t see exposing anyone else.”

About half of the Food Pantry’s normal clients are coming out on pick up days. Sutton suspects they’re afraid to leave their homes right now.

But, she also expects the number of applications for Pantry assistance will start to increase as more Pierce Countians feel the economic pain of COVID-19.

The Food Pantry serves families who receive less than $250 per week in Food Stamp assistance. Clients must also show proof of Pierce County residency.  Sutton is currently screening clients via phone call in an effort to limit exposure to coronavirus. For more information, call Sutton at 912-288-2288.

The Food Pantry is open from 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Food Pantry door is to the right of the Senior Center entrance.

In an effort to maintain social distancing protocols, clients are asked to remain in their vehicle until it’s their turn to be served. The Food Pantry volunteers are serving one family at a time. Clients are asked to wear a mask and gloves when they come for their grocery pick up. Sutton will provide a mask for those who don’t have one.

“When you see someone at the porch entrance … when that person has been served, then the next person can get out of their car and come up to the door,” Sutton says.

Food items are pre-packed and loaded into a cart for each family. The cart is sanitized between clients.

The Food Pantry is still accepting cash donations, too. Monetary contributions can be sent to PCFP 722 Jane St. Blackshear Ga. 31516.