Food pantry temporarily shuts down

By JOSHUA CAMPBELL,

With preserving the future of the Marion County Food Pantry in mind, the nonprofit’s board has decided to temporarily suspend all operations amid concerns over the coronavirus.

The decision was made March 19 and extends until April 7, when the board of directors will once again meet to choose whether to remain suspended or resume activity.

The food pantry announced the suspension on Facebook, stating “It is with great sadness and sorrow that we announce that we are temporarily suspending operations for the food pantry. We are concerned not only with the well being of those that we serve but also of our many volunteers. … Again we are very sorry for having to make this decision but it was one we felt was necessary.”

Board member Robert Bourne confirmed Tuesday the board doesn’t want to take the chance of having to permanently close the food pantry in the event that either the families they serve get COVID-19 or their volunteers contract it themselves. The vast majority of volunteers at the food pantry are more than 65 years old, which is considered to be the most vulnerable age group to the pandemic virus.

“We’ve got nothing but old-age volunteers at the food pantry. There’s several of us over 80, and if something happened to several of us the food pantry would be shut down for a long time,” Bourne, a former mayor of Columbia, said. “We decided to take the action to close for two weeks until we could take another look at it before we open back up. We want to reduce exposure for both the patrons that come and for the personnel that work there.”

Bourne added the volunteers love people and want to be able to help families into the future. Just last week, before the suspension, the food pantry provided 71 families with boxes of food.

“With that impact in the community, we just thought maybe it would be better not losing our folks that normally work there,” he said.

Bourne said the food pantry has stocked up a considerable amount of food for Easter, and he’s hoping it will reopen in time to distribute it. 

The food pantry is typically open on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 424 Bullis St. and is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with no affiliation with federal, state, county or city governments. It receives private donations from people, churches, schools and grocery stores. It spends anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 every month to local grocery stores on food.

“It’s a win-win for the community, the city of Columbia and the county to have a food pantry,” Bourne said.

The former mayor added that when the food pantry does reopen, he would love for more people to volunteer and it’s in need of truck drivers to pick up and deliver food. 

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