Coronavirus roundup: Harvest Community Center increases food distributions to meet COVID-19 need

Coronavirus roundup: Harvest Community Center increases food distributions to meet COVID-19 need

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Harvest Community Center increases food distributions to meet COVID-19 need

The Harvest Community Center in Santa Maria will be increasing its food capacity during its upcoming monthly distributions in order to provide longer-lasting supplies for more families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Beginning Monday, April 20, monthly food packages from Harvest Community Center will be available for up to 175 four-person families, with enough food to last families a month rather than the usual two-week supply, director Anthony Burns said.

Packages will include items such as canned goods, fresh vegetables and fruit, bread, meat and beans, Burns added.

Normally, families wait in line outside the community center before entering to pick out food items from the center's supply. Now, the supplies will be given to families outside of the center, he said. 

The center will also require those picking up food to follow social distancing guidelines for the coming months, standing six feet apart at placed markers on the sidewalk.

Those picking up food are also asked to wear gloves and masks while waiting in line.

"As the line progresses, bags [and] boxes of food will be passed along until all the food is gone," Burns said. 

The center was able to increase its food supply through donations from Mechanics Bank and Lifestyle Autos along with donations from private businesses, with food supplied by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and grocery stores, Burns said.

"We were fortunate to have businesses that donated to help with this," he said. 

The April food distribution begins at 8 a.m. Monday at 619 North Railroad Avenue. 

COVID-19 crisis causes helpline calls to spike in Santa Barbara County

Calls to 2-1-1 Santa Barbara County have spiked since the COVID-19 outbreak, rising 300% in the last two weeks of March, said a spokeswoman for the helpline that connects callers with local health and human services agencies.

In the first five days of April, the helpline handled almost 500 calls — more than the typical number seen in an entire month, the spokeswoman said.

Sixty percent of the call volume is for senior-related resources like food delivery, but more callers now are asking about health care, help with domestic violence and mental health issues.

“At first, calls were for general information, such as ‘What is COVID-19?’ and ‘Who is at risk?’” said 2-1-1 program manager Elisa Pardo. “Shortly after the first week of shelter-at-home [orders], it was inquiries for food information, child care resources, rent assistance, utility assistance and general financial assistance.

“Now we are experiencing more health-care questions, with calls related to mental health issues increasing countywide,” she said.

From February to March, 2-1-1 Santa Barbara County had a 30% increase in mental health calls, including inquiries about support for depression and suicidal thoughts, and domestic violence-related calls have tripled since the restrictions on movement due to COVID-19, Pardo said.

Since April 12, the helpline has become the main phone line for COVID-19 information and resources, as the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services call center is closed.

The helpline is confidential, uses certified multilingual information and referral specialists and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the caller.

For COVID-19 information and resources, call 211 within the 805 area code or, toll-free, 800-400-1572 from outside the 805 area code; text your ZIP code to 898-211; or visit www.211sbco.org.

Lompoc Food Pantry remains open with altered procedures amid coronavirus pandemic

The Lompoc Food Pantry, which is run by Catholic Charities, has remained open and is continuing to accept clients, but the organization has altered its procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the changes, clients are no longer allowed inside the Food Pantry building and are now being processed at the window near the entrance.

The Food Pantry is located at 325 North Second St. in Lompoc, though the facility also serves clients from Los Alamos, Buellton, Solvang and Santa Ynez. Its operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.

The Food Pantry offers a range of services, including food for some 200 clients a day, as well as assistance with utilities and home repairs for qualified clients.

"The Food Pantry management wishes to thank people who have made donations at this difficult time," read a portion of a statement from Food Pantry administrators.

For more information, call the Food Pantry at 805-736-6226.

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