COVID-19 Preparedness at Loudoun Hunger Relief

Thank you for your support of the work we do at Loudoun Hunger Relief, helping the most vulnerable among us to have sufficient, nutritious food.
We’d like to take a few minutes of your time to update you on what we’ve done to be prepared as an organization and to prepare the people we serve for impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
As a leader in Loudoun’s emergency food system, we have already begun providing the families we serve with an extra shelf-stable bag of food to help keep their kitchens stocked. We’re making sure we have food on hand at the pantry in anticipation of the potential need for the next several weeks. We’re also making sure that we can staff the pantry and get the food to those who need it.
We are also working closely with our County government and nonprofit partners to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those we serve, and those who may need food if our region is heavily impacted.
So keep washing your hands, keep doing what you can to reduce risk of disease transmission, and keep thinking positive. We appreciate your continued support of our neighbors in need and we will call on our donors when needed in the coming weeks.

A marathon AND a sprint….

Loudoun Hunger Relief is moving forward to meet the growing need. Every day brings a new challenge. The need for services is growing just at the time that we can’t allow volunteers in the building. We know this is a marathon, but we’re also having to accelerate at a sprinter’s pace to meet the demand for services.

Market Room use during COVID-19 crisis

Market Room before COVID-19 crisis

Market Room use during COVID-19 crisisWe planned for this crisis, and our emergency planning has served us well.  We’ve kept pace so far, and we’re working to make sure we can keep it up in the weeks (hopefully not months!) to come.

Our service numbers are up 50% in just three weeks. So many seeking services are newly unemployed–it’s truly heartbreaking. We expect that our service numbers will be up again this week. Each “number” is a family with a job loss or reduction in hours to cope with. We hurt for each of them and for our community.

On the bright side, we live in an incredibly generous place and donors have been helping us keep this ship moving forward. So many have supplied food and monetary donations, as well as sent lovely encouraging notes via email, snail mail or social media.

We thank everyone for the support, and the positive messages! Keep it coming!

 

It’s a new day

It’s a new day in so many ways in our world right now. At Loudoun Hunger Relief, we are continuing to adapt to the needs of our community, the constraints of operating under CDC guidelines, and all the change that is coming each day.

Just when it feels heaviest, something always happens to lighten the load. It might be a kind note, a generous donation, or an offer of help from someone who has little themselves. This double rainbow appeared in the sky last night. We know the storm is far from over, but we are grateful to have been offered a little light in the middle of it.

Stay safe and well. And stay at home unless you need to get food or medicine.

It’s a lot….

In the last two weeks, nearly 1000 donors have provided money, food, or other material assistance to us as we geared up our operations for the need we know is to come. It’s a lot.

Today, our phones were ringing way more than usual for a Thursday morning, as many people in our area are facing their first week with no paycheck. People are worried about how they will take care of their families. It’s a lot to think and worry about.

We are humbled by the outpouring of support. We are equally humbled by the grace of those we serve. It’s a lot to take in.

The pace of change, the underlying anxiety, the generosity, the strength of spirit; it’s all a lot. We are grateful to live in such an amazing community, and grateful for the support we’re receiving. And it’s a lot!

The Six-Foot Shuffle…

We have had to make changes to our operations to comply with all CDC guidelines. We’re calling it the six-foot shuffle. We will probably have to make further adjustment as the CDC comes out with new information in the days to come, so please bear with us as we pivot. There’s plenty that has changed inside the pantry, but here’s what the public needs to know:

  1. We have changed our food donation procedures. Donors are asked to drop their donations off in a marked bin in the parking lot, or for fragile items, on a table next to the donation bin. For everyone’s safety we are maintaining six feet of distance between people. For this reason, we are currently unable to offer receipts for food donation. Staff cannot assist in unloading donor vehicles. We aren’t being rude, we’re just following the guidelines for public safety and social distancing. We’re asking donors who are unable to unload their own vehicles to please hold their donations for a happier day to come.
  2. We have suspended our volunteer program. There was no way to continue and still meet CDC distancing guidelines.
  3. We have changed our service delivery procedures. After careful consideration, we have moved to an all appointment service model effective March 23, 2020 and until further notice. Families and individuals should phone 703-777-5911 to make an appointment to pick up food.

Our hours of service have not changed, but we are asking all who need food to call to make an appointment so that we can maintain a proper number of people and safe social distancing at all times. We have asked that people arrive at their appointment times, and remain in their cars to be served.

We are minimizing person to person contact by collecting needed information from families in need of food by phone at the time they make their appointment.

We are further minimizing person to person contact by delivering pre-packed grocery orders curbside. This eliminates our ability to customize grocery orders unless there is a serious reason, such as a severe allergy.

Today’s Normal

It’s Tuesday at LHR and we’re living “today’s normal” every day. We are profoundly grateful to so many people who are helping us with food or financial donations. One donor let us know he is contributing $50 a day to LHR for every day he is forced to work from home. Many have phoned us to see what we need, and many others have sent generously from our Amazon wish list.

A typical Tuesday has appointment based service hours in the morning and again in the evening. On a typical Tuesday, we serve about 50 families total. Today, we served 75. This was not a typical Tuesday.<–!more–>

We are proud that our staff of eight people, along with help from the Loudoun County Department of Parks and Recreation personnel, has managed to keep up with the demand for emergency food. We are adhering to CDC guidelines to have no more than 10 people in any one place, and to have them at least three feet apart. This slows down our operations, but the safety of everyone is the first concern.

There is much to do to keep up with demand, and we are doing it while adding all the extra steps it takes to sanitize, keep the shelves stocked, and pack emergency orders.

We have shifted our service completely to the outdoors, and we give thanks daily for the good weather we’ve had. We have also shifted completely to pre-packed bags. This speeds service, and provides very a very similar selection of groceries to every family. Traditionally, we have packed groceries to order, honoring special requests where possible. In today’s normal, we don’t have the variety of food we normally would, and we’re doing our best to help everyone get through this crisis.

We adjust things every day to be faster, better, more efficient and more caring. When we make mistakes, and we do, we apologize, fix them and move onward.

We feel ready for tomorrow, in “today’s normal”.

Getting through today, preparing for tomorrow

It’s been a busy Monday at Loudoun Hunger Relief. We spent Sunday reviewing CDC social distancing guidelines, and we knew that the pantry is just too small to provide enough space for everyone to be inside safely. We made the hard choice to suspend our volunteer program, and we began to bring groceries to our families in need outside. We are doing our best to provide what people need while minimizing risk to everyone.

We had help from so many today! 7×24 Exchange, an association of data center service providing companies, arrived in the chill of the morning and packed 400 bags of emergency groceries in 2 hours. County employees from the Department of Parks and Recreation as well as from the Department of Family Services and the Voter Registration Office came to help pack another 600+ bags. It was an amazing, open air, socially distant, community supporting operation!  JK Moving came to the rescue, loaning us a truck and driver for a food pick up we didn’t have the staffing to make. Wegmans helped with heavily discounted cereal for our bag packs.

Today we provided food services to families in need at both our Leesburg pantry and our Sterling Mobile Market service location.

We provided bags of shelf-stable groceries for emergency preparedness to local first responders. We had bags ready early in the day for the Department of Parks and Recreation to provide to the seniors usually served in their centers. Bags got delivered to William Watters House in Sterling and arrived at Madison House in Leesburg (senior low-income housing). Tomorrow morning, Loudoun County Public Schools will pick up emergency family grocery bags to travel with them on the buses delivering breakfast and lunch to children and families throughout the LCPS system.

All in all today, our teams packed over 1000 bags and delivered or shared with other agencies nearly 700 bags. We’ll be at it again tomorrow morning, when we open for service at 8:30.

This is a challenging time for everyone. We are blessed to have the resources of our community and local government partners backing us as we strive to help low-income families and older adults get through today and prepare for tomorrow.

LHR’s Virus Season Precautions

As always, LHR wants to provide a safe, clean, healthy environment for those who work, volunteer and receive services. We have been following CDC and local health department guidelines.

Dr. Goodfriend, our Loudoun Health Department Director has advised the following: hand sanitizer access and use, frequent handwashing, staying home when sick and frequent cleaning of high touch areas. Please know that we have hand sanitizer available around the building, soap at each sink and are installing a hand sanitizer wall unit in the lobby on Monday. Our staff has been cleaning the high touch areas (handles/chairs/shelves/doors/counters/bathrooms/etc) daily with antibacterial cleanser.

We are in contact with the County of Loudoun regarding any other updates or plans that need to be put in place should there be a need. We will keep you posted as information becomes necessary and available.