I hope you are all doing as well as you can and are taking care of yourselves and each other during this challenging time. It has been a couple of weeks since we have given a thorough update on how Feeding Our Kids has been responding to the coronavirus outbreak. So here is a status on us and our operations over the past three weeks as we continue to fight youth food insecurity here in our community.
First of all, we need to give immense thanks to our hosts at the Champaign Church of Christ. Since they are not holding any church activities, and we were worried about doing sorts in the basement rooms, the church opened up their Fellowship Hall on the main floor to us. Some church volunteers came in on a Saturday morning and moved all of our food upstairs into the hall, giving us much more room to practice social distancing during the sorts.
Aside from the space, the sorts themselves are running differently. We are only allowing six to eight volunteers at a time, with two sort leaders, to keep our total people in the hall at any time under ten. Because we are only having ten people at a time, we are doing weekly sorts and deliveries instead of bi-weekly, and the sorts are slightly longer than normal. This allows us to maintain a comparable output of food bags. Our volunteers have been great with this. The record thus far is 520 bags in two hours.
We are maintaining a limited number of volunteers to minimize potential widespread exposure. As part of this, we are directly inviting volunteers as part of our scheduling, and not doing public sign-ups. We may be opening up our list to more volunteers eventually, so please keep following us on social media and checking your emails if and when we do request more volunteers.
New distribution plans have been developed with the school districts. On Monday mornings, we deliver food bags to the three sites that Champaign Unit 4 is using for weekly meal package distribution, so that families can get the Feeding Our Kids bags as well when they pick up their week’s worth of school meals. Then, in the middle of the week, we deliver to the Urbana distribution sites and the outlying school districts so they can also include Feeding Our Kids bags with their meal distribution when our families come to pick up meals. And this past week, we worked out a system with Unit 4 to get our food bags to families that our unable to come to the Unit 4 distribution sites on Mondays, and a great group of volunteers are helping with those deliveries.
We also want to thank the Give Me Five food program in Mahomet. Since they were already operating in the Lincoln Trail Elementary School, they have agreed to take on Middletown Prairie. This allows the Mahomet programs to run together more efficiently, and it allows us to focus on the other communities we serve.
That all being said, there is still more work for us to do. While we are still providing food bags, it is much more difficult to get them to the children we serve, whose families happen to be the most vulnerable under the current economic uncertainties. We are only delivering about 2/3 of the bags we were delivering prior to this crisis. With our capacity, we are still able to operate and provide around 1000 bags each week, but the bigger issue is getting them to the children that need them. But rest assured that we will continue to work with social workers and school staff to make sure support is getting to these families, to make sure they do not slip through the cracks.
As part of this, we as a board, and other community members are trying to work out ways that you can continue to support us. Obviously, due to health concerns, we are limiting in-person volunteer opportunities. But we hope to have some ideas soon about ways you may be able to help us from home. So please stay tuned for updates.
Meanwhile, you can help all of us by continuing to follow public health guidelines and best practices. Please continue to support the amazing community organizations working to continue their services; the schools, teachers, social workers, and other educational staff that are working hard to suddenly incorporate remote learning as well as all the other supports our children need; and of course, the amazing health care workers and first-responders that are serving us on the frontlines of this outbreak. Thank you to everyone for doing your own part to help us get through this time together!