Allison Hullett, CEO of the Montgomery County Food Bank, said the organization operates a warehouse in Conroe, where it is supplied with food sourced through its partners, such as H-E-B, Kroger and Walmart.
“We absorb that extra food, sort through it with our volunteers and distribute it through our 70 partner agencies,” Hullett said. “Some of the populations we affect are homeless teens, Community Assistance Center [and] St. Anthony of Padua, and we help college students at Lone Star College through their pantry.”
Outside of a disaster, Hullett said keeping these pantries supplied is the food bank’s regular mission. Any church or nonprofit needing food can get supplied from the food bank at little to no cost.
While the nonprofit can usually use volunteers on a regular basis, decisions were made in March to limit the number of volunteers that can help due to the coronavirus.
“We are riding a balance between keeping our staff, volunteers and community safe from the spread of illness and feeding those in need,” Hullett said. “We are not doing public call-outs for volunteers right now, and we are not doing public call-outs for food drives.”
Hullett added this is the first time the food bank has not called for a food drive, which is normally the case in a disaster.
“This is such a unique disaster experience,” Hullett said. “We are only allowing 10 people in each volunteer room. We have sanitizing stations, and we are being very careful within the building. We are also supporting our partner agencies with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines with not only cleanliness within their agencies but food distribution models. The most important thing is safety.”
Hullett said the Montgomery County Food Bank is changing the way it operates during this time as well. Normally, she said, clients come in and use the food bank like a grocery store. Due to coronavirus, this style of experience has had to shut down, and the food bank is beginning to utilize drive-thru models so that food can be directly loaded into vehicles.
While the food bank’s biggest concern has been the amount of retail supply that can be provided due to panic buying, Hullett said supplies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been able to fill the gap.
Due to coronavirus fears, Hullett said the best way to go about helping the Montgomery County Food Bank is either by doing monetary donations or taking part in the active virtual food drive. Donations are broken into tiers that detail what the money goes to.
Moving forward, Hullett said she and her staff are preparing to see a greater need for services as businesses shut down and the ability to fundraise is limited.
“We are working around the clock to create a safe environment and feed people,” Hullett said. “I think each and every one of my team members shine, and I have never been more proud of the work we are doing. We are 100% committed to feeding those in need and to uniting the community to fight hunger.”
The Montgomery County Food Bank is not currently asking for active food drives or for volunteers due to safety confirms with coronavirus. However, residents can help by donating to the virtual campaign at www.mcfoodbank.org/virtual-food-drive. The campaign will be ongoing, officials said.
- $10 provides five backpack buddies for area children.
- $30 provides five senior boxes for area senior residents.
- $45 provides five boxes of food for area families.