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Go Ask Mom

Prepping for the coronavirus? Consider those in need too

Posted March 9, 2020 9:00 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2020 2:48 p.m. EDT

Food donations to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

I don't know about you, but my house has some extra stuff in it right now, thanks to the coronavirus.

I've heeded the Department of Homeland Security's advice and stocked up on a couple of weeks of food. We have a giant jar of peanut butter, lots of oatmeal, plenty of frozen veggies and meats, some canned pineapples and beans and, just in case my family gets sick, some extra chicken soup, Popsicles, applesauce and Gatorade on hand.

Part of the reason for my stocking up is because my cupboards and freezer were close to bare a couple of weeks ago as the novel coronavirus began to spread around the world. Other than some baking supplies and fancy BBQ sauces and mustards, we had just a handful of useful things — some pasta, dried fruit, crackers and half empty boxes cereal. My freezer held mostly waffles, lima beans and peas.

Every few months, I go through this exercise, taking stock of what we have and using it all up, building meal plans based on my inventory. By the end, there's not much left to eat in my house. I do it because I don't like waste, especially food that that's left too long in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer.

So that's where I was when I started preparing for the potential impacts of the illness that's causing everything from mild symptoms in many to death in some, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, who catch it.

If my family does get the virus, I want to have supplies on hand so that we don't need to venture out to stores to pick things up and potentially spread the sickness to others. And if more and more cases pop up in the Triangle, having these items on hand means I don't have to go out, potentially catch the virus and then possibly spread it to others.

But, I make all of these preparations knowing that I'm lucky. My exercise to empty my cupboards and freezer is something I do not because I can't afford food, but just because I hate waste. My cupboard is never bare for any other reason. My kids always know there will be something to eat in the house (though there's plenty of grumbling when it doesn't include their favorite snacks).

As I pulled my credit card out time and again to stock up on food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer in the last week or two, I couldn't help but think about the families who barely have the resources to get what they need on a daily or weekly basis, let alone stock up for an emergency.

It's something those who help those in need are thinking about right now.

"We are assessing what our agencies and the people we support may need, as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to come," Jessica Slider Whichard, communications director for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, tells me. "We’re working to keep our partner agencies (the pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters who serve people) stocked with food in advance of the virus potentially spreading."

But, she says, there's a way we all can help.

"It would be wonderful if, as families are preparing themselves and stocking up, they could buy extras and swing by the Food Bank to donate them," she tells me. "Families across our 34 county service area will all be looking for the same types of items, and every little bit helps us support people whose budgets are already stretched thin.

We also know that there will be an impact for people losing wages and business and want to ensure we’re prepared to serve people who may not regularly need Food Bank support."

Slider Whichard said the need is greatest for dry goods and shelf-stable items that can be provided to people to stock their pantries – foods that send them up for an extended period of time.

The food bank is also in contact with area public school systems, knowing that if classes are canceled, school lunch is too.

"Funds are the resource we need most. They allow us to make purchases in bulk, and shift our operation as needed in the coming days and weeks," Slider Whichard said.

The Food Bank's website lists ways you can donate food or simply give online, so the Food Bank can purchase what those they serve need.

So next time you head to the grocery store to pick up just one more can of soup — pick up a few for those in our community who regularly go without. In times like these, we all need to work together.

Sarah is Go Ask Mom's editor and a mom of two.