Normally, the Oregon Area Food Pantry accepts new guests if they bring a form of identification, and proof they live in Oregon along with how many people live in their household.
But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, managing director Diane Sliter told the Observer volunteers aren’t turning anyone away — any guest who needs something to eat is eligible.
“If someone feels that they need food, we will provide them with food,” Sliter said.
In March, the pantry saw 20 more families than in February, she said. In April and May, she expects that number to rise significantly.
But anticipated increases will continue to pose challenges for OAFP in how it continues to fulfill needs, Sliter said.
The pantry’s interior shelves are nearly empty, Sliter said. But on Tuesday, March 21, it announced on its Facebook page it is once again accepting food donations on Saturday, April 25, which will likely help keep items stocked as demand goes up.
But as grocery stores place limits on how much customers can purchase to prevent items from running out, Sliter said OAFP has still been left scrambling.
Guests can come to the pantry during its regular hours, from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and 4-7 p.m. every second and last Thursday of each month.
To limit the spread of the illness, the pantry has adapted to offering curbside pickup and prepackaged goods, in place of having them come into the building. When new guests pull up to the pantry, Sliter said, volunteers retrieve prepackaged goods and personal hygiene items like toilet paper, and take it to their vehicle.
OAFP’s delivery boxes include core food items, Sliter said, which typically include mac and cheese, peanut butter, pasta, cereal, soups, as well as the produce from Madison-based nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank, which services pantries around south central Wisconsin.
The packages, based on family size, are a godsend to pantry guests, Sliter said. “They are very appreciative,” she said.
To help supplement for lack of food donations until March 21, Sliter said she had started an account with Sysco to bring fresh fruits and vegetables into the packages. OAFP also receives pre-filled boxes from Second Harvest Foodbank, which typically include an assortment of produce, Sliter said.
The amount of monetary donations the pantry has received has become what it needs to keep feeding people, Sliter said, as it allows volunteers to still purchase needed food.
More produce may be coming by the way of Anderson Farm County Park. Sliter said volunteers will still plant vegetables in the six raised beds they had placed on the property last spring. That will give families access to fresh vegetables like onions, kale, green beans and peas, among others.
“We are surviving,” Sliter said.