Our staff and volunteers spent the first few months of 2020 preparing to celebrate our organization’s tenth birthday – working behind the scenes on our rebranding project, compiling a special ten-year report on our work, and planning a big get together for March 20th. Then, starting the week of March 16, our staff shifted to working from home. We held our big press conference on March 20, just as planned – except we limited the attendees to only the speakers and someone to film it. We postponed that evening’s celebration until April, before ultimately canceling it indefinitely. All the while, we were working behind the scenes to respond quickly and intentionally to the unique needs our community was now experiencing.
One by one, our fundraising events were cancelled or postponed – requiring us to entirely rework our annual budget. We found ourselves writing protocol for gleaning during a pandemic – something I’m sure none of us had expected to fall under the ‘other duties as assigned’ section of our job descriptions. Our staff immediately set out to communicate with our recipient agencies to determine their availability to receive produce – understandably, many have had to suspend donations of outside produce to best protect their clients, especially those serving individuals most at risk. Supply chains have been disrupted across the board – our pickups from Costco went from 300 pounds a day, bottomed out to forty pounds as shoppers rushed the store to stock up, spiked to daily pickups of over 1,000 pounds as they overcorrected their orders, before settling to a familiar place over the last couple weeks.
The needs in our community have changed too. Restaurants and hotels suddenly found themselves with full pantries and overstocked coolers, just as they were having to close down – the week of March 23, we responded to several calls in Lexington to pick up this food for delivery to feeding programs who suddenly found themselves serving more people than ever before. With schools closed for the year, kids were less able to access breakfast and lunch, and so we’ve worked to support our partners at FoodChain by delivering over 4,700 prepared meals to distribution sites around Lexington since the week of March 30. And we’ve worked to remain flexible for all the other things that pop up – we’ve delivered a donation of peanut butter from Lexington’s Jif factory, and are currently working to organize the distribution of four pallets of frozen chicken donated by Raising Cane’s.
Through all this, support of our work has been overwhelming. Our volunteers have dependably stepped up to fill gleaning spots, and we’ve received plenty of new applications from people looking for a way to help. Surprise donations have shown up in the mail, and our funders have maintained and increased their commitments, despite uncertainty for their own futures. Our usual partners – the farmers and groceries that make our work possible – have stuck with us the whole way, ensuring we’ll be able to continue our usual work into the future. Though much is still up in the air as we step into May, we’ve consistently felt privileged to be doing what we’re doing throughout all of this, and are grateful to see our work continue at a time that it may be needed the most.