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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

Feeding the Gulf Coast Is Feeding Kids during COVID-19

Feeding the Gulf Coast

Children age 18 and younger who no longer receive free or reduced meals due to school closures in the wake of COVID-19 are getting help from an area food bank.

Normally, the program is a summer feeding program by Feeding the Gulf Coast.

Sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture, sites are identified each summer where kids typically are under the age of 18 – libraries, community centers, and low-income housing complexes, among others.

Aubrey Grier is the organization’s community engagement coordinator.

“Due to the schools shutting down for more than just spring break, we have gotten the go-ahead to get those sites going early, instead of waiting until May,” Grier said. “We already have a lot of sites ready as far as on-boarding, so it wasn’t a huge task to get them going.”

And Feeding the Gulf Coast isn’t going it alone – it partners with other organizations to get the food on the table.

Like Feeding Florida, which is the organization that advocates for us and the other food banks in Florida,” said Grier. “They help us with finding resources, especially produce.”

Along with produce, when available, Grier says they offer “anything and everything,” at their child nutrition sites.

“Lunches that are already pre-made; they’re cold lunches so it could be anything from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple, or a little cheese and turkey and some Sun chips. But they’re all going to be healthy cold meals.”

At Feeding’s pantries and mobile pantries there are larger-scale distributions, such as frozen meat, produce, bread and other bakery items, along with dry and canned goods. And Grier concedes COVID-19 is presenting a challenge.

“A lot of our food typically comes from retail locations but they’re a little bare; and then we also typically get food in food drives,” said Grier. “But we are discouraging food drives because there’s not a lot of food on the shelves, and we also want to cut down the access of germs coming into our warehouse and potentially going back out into the community.”

There’s also been a large increase in the number of hits on the “Find Help” part of their website www.feedingthegulfcoast.org.

“A lot of our families that are coming in are low-income as well – that’s typically who we serve,” Grier said. “We won’t, I don’t think, get the full impact here until we start getting all those child nutrition sites up and getting some more large-scale distributions out there and we go out into the community and start talking to them. But we’ve definitely seen an impact so far.”

Those interested in volunteering do not have to bring documentation that they’re coronavirus-free – you’re on the honor system. But, anyone who’s been in contact with someone who’s been out of the country or now in quarantine, and those in high-risk groups are asked not to come. Grier says they’re also ratcheting up safety measures at the warehouse in East Milton.

“We’re cleaning twice a day; we have gloves and are limiting the people able to come into the warehouse at one time and limiting the agencies that are able to pick up that food,” said Grier. “Just trying to limit the traffic in the warehouse, even though we still need to have traffic going. And then upping washing hands for volunteers, and hand sanitizer as well.”

Once again, if you want to help out in some fashion, visit www.feedingthegulfcoast.org.  Individuals can also call (888) 704-FOOD. And for needs specific to child nutrition, text “FOOD” to 877-877.