REPORT ON IFPO OPERATIONS SINCE THE PANDEMIC BEGAN
March 2021: Special One-Year Anniversary Edition of IFPO's Pandemic Operations
Pandemic Operations, Updated: November 2020
As the dynamics of the pandemic situation change, the IFPO has continually adapted to help our food-insecure neighbors. When Epiphany & Christ Church closed their building, the IFPO transferred food from our pantry shelves to our partner, MEND, to ensure that our food stock quickly got into the surrounding community. The need for social distancing, as well as logistical concerns, led us to make direct deliveries to clients, utilizing an army of amazing volunteers. We began working out of warehouse space at 357 S. Jefferson Street, Orange, owned by HANDS, an organization that works to revitalize Orange. We continued the direct delivery model through July when local traffic picked up and clients were no longer always in their homes.
Late this summer, we transitioned to outdoor distribution at our warehouse location. Clients can make appointments online, and then walk-up or drive-up. IFPO clients can now come as often as four times a month. We recently added afternoon appointment times to accommodate clients with young children who can not get to us in the morning due to their children’s remote learning schedules. Client waiting time has been drastically reduced through the appointment system. We are excited to be renting the S. Jefferson space for the next year, and are about to add 525 additional square feet.
REACHING BEYOND THE PANTRY INTO THE COMMUNITY
In addition to direct distributions to our own clients, we continually arrange for massive quantities of food to be available to Orange and East Orange, primarily through The Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Orange distributed 500 Farmers to Families Food Boxes in just 2 hours recently; the much larger community of East Orange gets 1500 boxes every week. That program will end shortly. Both cities now regularly pick up available food at CFB that we order, as well as thousands of pounds of USDA and SFPP food we also order for them.
Thanks to a $20,000 grant IFPO received from the Grotta Fund for Senior Care, prepared meals are being delivered to seniors by three local community businesses: Hat City Kitchen, Sandwiches Unlimited, and Southern Comfort Cafe. We hope to continue this program beyond the fall because it has been such a huge success not only for the seniors receiving the meals but also as support for these local businesses.
BRINGING HEALTH & WELLNESS TO THE COMMUNITY
Our partner Summit Medical Group Foundation completed screenings for phase 3 of "Food, Health and Hope: Answer to Diabetes", the popular and life-changing program co-sponsored by CFB in which we have previously participated. Seventy-five IFPO clients have been approved for this program. We have begun to distribute diabetes-friendly food and supplemental produce twice monthly to enrolled clients. These clients will receive medical education and wellness checks at our site from SMGF.
IFPO PANDEMIC INITIATIVES
We have doubled the number of diapers now offered to each baby in our Diaper Program, giving out a full case of diapers, as well as wipes and cream, once a month to 175-225 babies, at a cost of $30-35 per baby each month.
We have continued to purchase high quality produce throughout the year because we are committed to providing these essential healthy items. From June through October, boxes of produce were distributed to many clients through the USDA Farmers to Families Covid food box program. But we have needed to supplement these free boxes each week.
We have expanded our toiletry program to include toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and masks, along with our traditional distribution items including soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, and more.
Much of the food we provide comes to us from our partner, The Community FoodBank of NJ, as well as federal (USDA) and state (SFPP) government programs. However, availability from these sources during the pandemic can be uncertain at critical times. Therefore, we sometimes need to purchase food from Shoprite to ensure that we have adequate resources for our clients.
We are providing updates on a daily basis on our Facebook page and website, not only about our work, but also about emergency food distributions and other important resources like flu shots, Covid testing, and rental assistance for the community we serve.
We are gearing up for a very different Thanksgiving distribution this year, providing multiple days of socially distanced volunteer opportunities, and two days of distribution by appointment to 400 clients. We are excited to include the same high quality produce boxes we have been distributing, although we will have to purchase them at a cost of $15 per client. In addition to groceries, turkeys, and more, we have committed to giving our clients $20 Shoprite gift cards at the Thanksgiving distribution, so they can get what they want and need to ensure a festive holiday at a time when there is often little to celebrate. Click here information on how you can volunteer or otherwise contribute to our Thanksgiving distribution.