Health & Wellness

Food pantry drive-thrus are a source of nutrition and inspiration

Volunteers help the Creswell Food Pantry at the Cobalt Center, 364 Cobalt Lane, help serve a steady, long line of cars each Thursday. “Drive-up distribution” is a common site during the pandemic. Denise Wendt/Food for Lane County

In its mission is to provide access to food for the community, the 30 food pantries in the county are especially having to adapt and react to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more people to help now, and each has to be cared for from a distance. 

Creswell Food Pantry manager Susan Blachnik is staying on her toes. 

She calls into meetings with other county food pantry managers every two weeks, and said they have noticed trends developing. 

She said that in the first two weeks of the pandemic, other managers noticed a surge in customers before a massive drop-off in week three, which is reflective of Blachnik’s experience at the pantry. 

In four weeks, the pantry has served 1,281 people, Blachnik said. Typically, she said she sees about five new customers a week, but in the last month, they have seen 54 entirely new households. 

She noticed a big uptick in weeks one and two – 316 the first week and 487 in the second week.

 “We were ready with 80 boxes the first week and needed 101 boxes,” she said. By week three, things slowed down at 231 people, perhaps because people were afraid to leave their homes, Blachnik said. Nearly 300 customers visited last week, likely “because people were starting to run out of food by then,” she said. 

This week, volunteers have 162 boxes ready with apples, oranges, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, pears, eggs, canned and packaged foods and frozen meat, Blachnik said. The food is either purchased through Grocery Outlet, Bimart and Farmlands Market or donated. 

Blachnik said she thinks there will be an increase for need before the need goes down. 

“This is going to be a problem for families to catch up for another six months,” Blachnik said. “We will probably need help financially to purchase food or have food donations more than normal.”

Creswell Food Pantry is open on Thursdays from 12:30-3 p.m. at 364 Cobalt Lane. 

Mobile pantry locations 

FOOD for Lane County mobile pantries have also popped up in Cottage Grove and Springfield. The Cottage Grove location is open on Wednesdays at Bohemia Elementary School, 721 S. R St. and the Springfield location is open on Thursdays at the Willamalane Bob Keefer Sports Center, 250 S. 32nd St.Both sites operate from 4:30-6 p.m. 

As of April, the income guidelines for obtaining food assistance in Oregon have changed from 185% of the Federal Poverty level to 300% of the Federal Poverty Levels, and through at least June 30, households are not limited in the number of food boxes they may receive per week.



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