To Keep Food in Texas Pantries, NTFB Steps Up to Keep Workers Safe During COVID-19

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When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Texas in March 2020, business as usual was no longer an option for the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Thousands of North Texans rely on the food bank on any normal day but the perfect storm of rising unemployment and stay-at-home orders put the NTFB in a really tricky spot. They needed to feed more people but a decline in volunteers jeopardized the organization’s mission.

Ensuring staff and volunteer safety in the midst of a viral pandemic was also top of mind for the food bank. As Anna Kurian, Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications for NTFB explains, “When this really started taking hold here in North Texas, we knew we were going to have to have some protocols in place to keep the folks that were coming through our building safe.”

To get food to the Texans who needed it, the NTFB knew it had to act quickly.

According to Kurian, the rise in demand for NTFB services and decline in volunteers required an immediate shift in every aspect of the food bank’s business. “We say we pivoted on a dime to make sure we were be able to meet that need.” With companies and schools closed due to the lockdown—and reluctant to allow their students and employees to volunteer—the NTFB made several critical moves to keep healthy food and meals moving through its warehouse in Plano and into neighborhoods in need. One important step was to mobilize the NTFB’s mobile pantry distributions, where they send a truck filled with food into areas of high need. Many of these neighborhoods don’t have a partner agency in the region providing food—especially healthy food like produce—to those who need it.

Between March 20 and June 30, 2020 more than 140 of those distributions and 246,000 people were served through the mobile pantry effort alone. Learn more about the NTFB’s mission and how you can help in the video below.

NTFB’s innovative Get Shift Done fund boosts the volunteer pool, while providing pay to folks who lost their jobs.

“The Get Shift Done fund is actually paying people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic to come and volunteer at the food bank as well as other nonprofit partners. It’s actually something that’s been expanded to other locations nationwide, and it started right here at the North Texas Food Bank. We’re very proud of that,” Kurian says. After about a month into the Get Shift Done initiative, the organization realized COVID-19—and the high demand for NTFB services—wasn’t going away any time soon. That’s when Kurian says they called for reinforcements. As she explains, “We called the Texas National Guard, and more than 280 guardsmen came to help us in the warehouse as well as at our mobile pantry distributions. Those guys are very efficient but actually the Get Shift Done people are just as efficient. And they’ve come back to help us here. We’re just really happy that not only are they helping us stock the shelves but they’re receiving funds that will help them feed their families. It’s really a win-win.”

TTG’s donation of COVID-19 signage, hand sanitizer stations and more helps support NTFB’s safety protocols

The NTFB’s Plano Perot Family campus is the heart of the organization’s massive operation, which serves 13 North Texas counties, moves over one million pounds of food every week and provides access to 97 million meals each year. With hundreds of people moving through the facility every day, the NTFB knew it had to be proactive about safety protocols from day one. “One of the first things that was implemented was the temperature checks and the social distancing. We’ve always encouraged people to practice good hygiene and wash their hands, now it’s a more concerted effort to ensure that happens,” Kurian says.

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