Local food pantries quickly adapting in wake of coronavirus pandemic

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – As the coronavirus pandemic continues, local food pantries staying open becomes more critical.

But they are going through some changes too.

Local food pantries are staying busy despite every precaution to prevent the coronavirus.

“Washing your hands on a regular basis, sanitizing things,” Wafer food pantry operations manager Brad Gerdes said.

“We’re doing the social distancing, we’re wearing gloves,” Hunger Task Force executive director Shelly Fortner said.

Both Wafer and the HTF are having to adapt to this new reality.

“We had client choice before, so clients came into the building, and would walk through the pantry and select the food that they want,” Gerdes said.

But because of the ongoing pandemic, that’s no longer the case for Wafer.

“So it’s being selected by volunteers and staff and packaged, and then handed to them,” Gerdes said.

However, there is a silver lining.

“When it’s all pre-selected for them, the process goes pretty quick,” Gerdes said.

The Hunger Task Force is dealing with some adjustments as well.

“At this point, we’re limiting volunteers to groups of five or less,” Fortner said.  “We’ve lost some volunteers due to this. But, it’s very expected and we understand that.”

Adam Williams, who volunteers at HTF, saw this point in time as an opportunity.

“I started here Monday,” Williams said. “There’s always something that needs to be done. And there’s always somebody that needs to do it.”

Even if it means handling a much bigger workload.

“We actually got 13 bags of bread, which is about twice what we normally get,” Williams said. “Full, big trash bags basically.”

Williams says taking care of bigger food orders can be overwhelming.

“It definitely messes with the workloads,” Williams said. “But, once we get it figured out, once we get our group in here, and we get everything distributed, it goes as smoothly as it did before with full staff…It’s very much better to have too much than not enough.”

Because being able to provide to those who need it the most right now is most important.

“All of us have to step in and do our part,” Williams said.

Because the unemployment rate is going up, Gerdes says he expects that more people will need food in the near future.

If you are someone who needs food right now, Wafer is providing for new clients.

If you’d like to apply, you can do so in-person.

Just click here for more information on how to apply.