With school districts around North Texas extending spring break and the possibility of extended closures looming elsewhere, the North Texas Food Bank is preparing to help more families.

Organizers say they will likely be working with families who may have never needed to use the food bank before.

“I do expect we are going to have an increased need in the coming weeks and months,” said Anna Kurian, North Texas Food Bank senior director of marketing and communications.

The North Texas Food Bank serves 13 counties – Dallas, Denton, Collin, Fannin, Rockwall, Hunt, Grayson, Kaufman, Ellis, Navarro, Lamar, Delta and Hopkins. It also has campuses in Plano and Dallas.

The food bank has already started stockpiling emergency food boxes and sanitation supply kits.

“Treating it like a disaster is kind of how we have to think about it.” Kurian said. “You’re going to have people who are not going to be able to go into work, and that’s going to impact them financially. Not to mention having their kids home as well. If you already have a stretched budget, it’s potentially going to get stretched even further.”

North Texas Food Bank has dealt with similar situations in the past, such as the government shutdown or weather emergencies. But the coronavirus is different.

“It is a bit more of a widespread situation, and you don’t really know how long it’s going to last,” Kurian said. “I believe that is what is most concerning.”

The food bank also has to think about keeping its volunteers safe.

“They are a large part of our labor force,” she said. “So, we are putting together a plan to help those folks out, so that when they volunteer with us they themselves feel safe. We are providing additional hand sanitizer, doubling up on our cleaning efforts in our facilities, and things of that nature.”

North Texas Food Bank is also looking for delivery methods that minimize long lines and large crowds.

“Depending on what the situation might require, we could also look at things like a drive-thru model if we feel like that's the best option.” Kurian said.

The North Texas Food Bank works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Agriculture, which govern its programs and help determine who qualifies for help. Kurian said there are ongoing discussions about whether some of its rules can be relaxed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“You could be asked for proof of income and things like that,” she said. “But most of the agencies in our network have the ability to supply food to anyone who is requiring it.”

There are plenty of ways people can help.

“There's four ways to get involved with the food bank,” Kurian said. “Whether it’s donating your time, donating funds, donating food, or donating your voice. I think a lot of folks might be nervous about donating their time, so we just want to encourage people to know that we are taking every precaution we can to make sure people have a safe and healthy volunteering experience.”