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Mid-South Food Bank’s mobile food pantries helping to feed thousands of families amid pandemic

Updated: Jun. 12, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The need for programs like the Mid-South Food Bank is still high even as the community reopens for business. For the next six months, the food bank anticipates handing out three to four million pounds of food a month.

Mobile food pantries like the one at the St. Patrick’s Community Outreach Center has helped feed hundreds of thousands of families since the pandemic began. Before the pandemic, the Mid-South Food Bank fed about 25,000 households a month. In May it was 118,000 and 82,000 of those households got food from mobile food pantries.

“It’s frightening, but people still have to be fed,” said St. Patrick’s Deacon Eugene Champion.

Friday’s mobile food pantry was held in honor of Deacon Eugene Champion who is retiring as director of the center. Cars lined near FedExForum to get food.

“We’re hoping the need subsides, but for right now the need is still great,” said Mid-South Food Bank President Cathy Pope.

Pope said as people make up for lost wages, the food bank will be operating at least 44% above the pre-pandemic need for the next 18 months.

“We’re looking at what the next six months, looks like, and it’s going to be 3 million or 4 million pounds a month,” said Pope.

Pope said normally the food bank distributes just over a million pounds of food a month. With more families to feed, the food bank has opened new centers and brought on new staff creating about $400,000 more in overhead a month.

“Looking to the recovery and resilience phase we know there’s a lot of nonprofits who have been serving our targeted populations who are hurting,” said Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ President Bob Fockler.

Donations are still needed. The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ COVID-19 Regional Response Fund raised about $4 million in 12 weeks. Sixty percent was used for immediate relief. The other 40% is starting to be distributed to help with long term needs within the nonprofits.

“Our plan is to fund infrastructure, the general operating costs of these agencies,” Fockler said.

Pope is confident the Mid-South community will help the food bank as it navigates the future of this pandemic. Since March its seen 5,000 new donors.

Pope explained the people she anticipates to continue to serve even as the community reopens, are the working poor. Pope said before the pandemic 40% of people in the Mid-South could not afford a $400 unexpected expense.

You can still donate to the Community Foundation’s Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.

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