More local families seek help from food pantry during COVID-19 pandemic
The Ozark County Food Pantry last week served 205 families – 20 to 40 more families than usual – after transitioning to a drive-through service for its April 8 distribution. Rhonda Suter, Ozark County Health Department administrator, said Monday that “everything went smoothly. The line kept moving pretty good, we didn’t run out of food and we had nice weather.” Members of some Ozark County volunteer fire departments helped with traffic control.
The food pantry is running another drive-through distribution today, April 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its location in the former Hodgson Mill Enterprises Building on County Road 806 west of the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department.
Suter said Monday that volunteers and donations are needed as the facility serves an increased number of families needing help during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers help assemble the food boxes before each month’s two food pantry distribution days and also help with the drive-through line. She stressed that practices are in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all stages of the food pantry operation. Those distributing the food “wear masks to protect the people coming through,” Suter said.
Food pantry days are the first and second Wednesdays after a first Monday of each month. So, in April, the distribution days are April 8 and 15.
Residents may call OCHD at 417-679-3334 for more information about volunteering at the food pantry. Cash donations to the food pantry are especially needed now, Suter said, “since our food dollars can go further” in purchasing food. But donations of nonperishable food items are also welcome. Call OCHD for information about delivering food items. Mail checks to the Ozark County Food Pantry in care of OCHD, P.O. Box 180, Gainesville, MO 65655.
Usually, several criteria specify who is eligible for food pantry assistance (see last week’s Times for a list of the usual eligibility guidelines). But during the pandemic, Suter said, those who are new to the service just need to bring an ID and proof of Ozark County residence, such as a utility bill.