COVID-19: Food Bank Council of Michigan Response
Defining reality is the first responsibility of leadership. Here is how the Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM) sees the need and the strategy concerning COVID-19. The need will wash over us in the coming weeks.
Wave I hit on Monday, March 16, with all schools in the state of Michigan. The FBCM network mobilized under the Summer Feeding Service Program (FSFP). A drive-through model was created with pre-packaged boxes and bags that provide up to 40 meals per family distribution and complies with the health safety protocols outlined by Governor Whitmer. FBCM worked with the Michigan Department of Education Office of Health and Nutrition Services to acquire a non-congregate waiver for the SFSP program. We are gathering totals of increased distributions over our regular workload. For example, Gleaners Community Food Bank also is distributing through an additional 56 mobile sites that are designed to fill in the gap for areas of need. This will effectively double its normal output for the month. The South Michigan Food Bank is already distributing 46% more food this week over last week. Wave I is focused on students and their families.
Wave II will be defined by specific populations that more than likely never had to negotiate with the emergency food network. These special populations include senior citizens, gig workers, service industry and employees of small businesses. The toughest challenge in this group is seniors due to their vulnerability, senior services’ reliance on senior volunteers for delivery services and the discontinuation of congregate meal service in many areas. FBCM staff continue to converse and work with our networks to discern best practices to serve seniors. Feeding America West Michigan has focused on displaced service industry workers with great success.
Wave III will more than likely be prompted by the fallout from the closing of Michigan automobile plants. First, their closures will affect businesses associated with the industry. Then, a wave of people will come to us if the companies stop paying their workers.
There will virtually be no break between waves. FBCM fully expects the pandemic itself and its impact to continue well past April 5 when kids are currently set to return to school. April 14 has been set as the expiration date for gatherings of more than 50 people.
The Distribution Model developed for mobile distributions is designed to honor the safety protocols that are currently in place, keep our team members safe and get emergency food to people in need. This drive-through model minimizes interaction, captures required data and gets high-quality food to people in need. If further order, such as shelter in place, are issued and the needs of senior citizens rise, the FBCM will adjust accordingly. It’s what we do.
This is the framework FBCM is using to determine how best to meet the community’s emerging needs. I hope it is helpful for you to see how this is forming in our minds. Normally, we would ask for your time, talent and treasure in coming alongside of our hungry neighbors. Today, however, I am simply asking for your treasure. We want you to stay safe, but we need your help in getting the necessary funds flowing in order to keep the food flowing to each group represented in our WAVE strategy.