Adapting To The Need, Food For Lane County In The Time of COVID-19

May 5, 2020

Today is Giving Tuesday. KLCC is partnering with Essex Construction and Food For Lane County for this fundraiser to help feed people in need in the community. KLCC’s Rachael McDonald spoke with Food For Lane County Executive Director Tom Mulhern.

Credit Food for Lane County

Mulhern says, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to cancel their big spring fundraisers, including the Spring Football Game and the Letter Carriers' Food Drive. They’ve also had to stop collecting food donations from local grocery stores and restaurants.

Tom Mulhern: So our food supply was really affected in a significant negative way by COVID019 and to offset that we have temporarily purchased food. We are purchasing food supplies to help fill in that gap. We’re still getting our supplies of USDA and state and regional level food donations through the Oregon Food Bank. Those have maintained and been a really important part of our supply. But to help make up that shortfall we have been using donated funds to purchase food to help fill in that gap. So, that’s one big area is on the food supply. But then on the food distribution of it the demand has increased across the board for food assistance so our pantries are stretching to meet that need. And they’ve all had to convert temporarily over to pre-packed food boxes rather than the shopping style which is what we always prefer to do give people choices. In order to get more food to more people we’ve also started mobile food pantries that Food for Lane County is operating directly working with other local partners. One in Eugene, one in Springfield, one in Cottage Grove and one in Oakridge. One evening a week we’re doing those mobile pantries. Just in an effort to get more of these pre-packed food boxes into the hands of people who are struggling at this time.

Rachael McDonald: What does one of those food boxes look like? What’s in a typical food box?

TM: Yeah, that’s a good question. What’s in a typical food box there would be the non-perishable cans of beans, rice, cooking oil. Just a variety of canned and boxed products, cereal. Then we’ll also supplement that with a bag of fresh produce, as well as a sack of some additional refrigerated, perishable items – some frozen meat or chicken or dairy products, anything like that that we’ve got.

RM: So, it sounds like that could be a a huge boon to someone who was in need of basic groceries that could last, depending on the size of their household for a few days, or even a week.

TM: Yes, again depending on the household size it can last anywhere from two or three days, to a week, or longer. And, also we’re being very flexible in terms of people coming back subsequent weeks if people need assistance, we’re doing our best to get that assistance to them.

RM: You know, you mentioned that the big fundraisers that usually happen this time of year have not taken place. What have you seen from the community in response to this pandemic, in terms of how they’ve responded to the needs at Food For Lane County?

TM: Yes, well the community has been very generous in responding to the need and the situation. I think people recognize what Food for Lane County and our partner agencies are doing to distribute food is something that’s very important right now. So, people have been generous. They’ve been sending in contributions. We just recently launched a fundraising campaign specific to COVID-19 and that’s happening right now. So, we’re grateful for that support. We’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with KLCC on this particular event. You folks are providing a valuable service as well in our world and our community. We need that more than ever right now, just like we need food on our tables.

Tom Mulhern, Executive Director of Food For Lane County, spoke with KLCC’s Rachael McDonald.