MAINE, USA — COVID-19 led to many food pantries asking volunteers to stay home. It was mostly about protecting the elderly who volunteered their time and helped out. The pandemic has actually brought more people to the pantries in need of food and supplies.
"Most of their agencies have pivoted their operations over the course of the last year. in response to COVID, some switching to a drive-through as opposed to a walk-in model to be safe and precautions in the times of COVID," DiFiore said. "There were fewer volunteers needed as operations were different."
Now, some of the pantries are in need of more hands: volunteers who can assemble boxes and carry them out to cars are in need.
In December, 30 percent of the Good Shepherd Food Bank partner pantries expressed a need for more volunteers versus 20 percent in November’s survey. The majority of partners that need more volunteers were located in Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Penobscot counties.
Dawn DiFiori is the director of community partnerships at Good Shepherd Food Bank. She said volunteers are the backbone of the food pantries, and donating some time is a great way to give back to your community.
The Good Shepherd Food Bank website also has a map with all of its pantries throughout the state.
DiFiore adds it will be a busy year and help is welcome right now.
"Most volunteers are in the high-risk group for COVID so that makes them susceptible to that, and the fear factor has raised a little bit, so that also starts to compound into a greater need for volunteers into the network," DiFiore said.
"When asked to consider only their current workforce capacity (volunteers and/or employees), 39 percent indicated they are concerned about their ability to meet the need over the next 30 days," Jessica Donahue, communications manager at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, said.