Food Relief Adapts to Pandemic

Local food agencies have have rapidly transformed their operations to ensure that the hungry continue to be fed during the COVID-19 crisis.

DESK staff sets up grab and go food distribution. Photos source: DESK.

Local Agencies Transform Operations to Safely Meet Food Needs

Widespread job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have put heavy demands on Greater New Haven soup kitchens and food pantries. In addition to seeing more people, food agencies have also had to adjust to new health restrictions while dealing with significant cuts to volunteer, staff and in-kind resources.

Yale Hospitality has partnered with DESK to make boxed meals to go.

Below is a partial list of the heroic efforts to prevent hunger in Greater New Haven during the pandemic. Want to help? Links are provided to contact information for each organization.

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen has rapidly transformed its operations to ensure that the hungry continue to be fed and no one is left out of its larger public health strategy.

“DESK's staff and volunteers are undeterred. We are working tirelessly and collaboratively to ensure the safety of all those we serve,” Executive Director Steve Werlin wrote supporters in a recent email.

Stenciled paint footprints help DESK clients maintain social distancing. Photo source: DESK

To limit social interactions, DESK has transitioned its main dinners and pantry services to grab and go.

DESK is also serving dinner and providing a check-in for the chronically homeless who have no place to go, ensuring that anyone exhibiting symptoms is immediately referred to health services through Hill Health's Street Medicine Team.

So that the elderly and immunocompromised can stay indoors, DESK has partnered with the United Way, CARE, Loaves and Fishes, and others through the Coordinated Food Assistance Network (CFAN) to begin delivering pantry groceries directly to the homes of those in need.

Drivers and other volunteers are needed. Learn more and connect with DESK.

Loaves and Fishes, the large food pantry at St. Paul and St. James Church on the corner of Chapel and Olive Street in New Haven, has dramatically changed the structure of how it distributes food. The weekly Saturday morning pantry has switched to a grab and go model. The pantry is using the recently published protocols from the New Haven Health Department to implement social distancing measures, moved the program outside and increased sanitation. Loaves and Fishes has also started a food delivery program in partnership with multiple programs run by the VA in West Haven. Learn more and connect with Loaves and Fishes.

Casa Otonal, of Fair Haven, which runs a residence and senior center for Latino and New Haven elderly, is now delivering lunch meals instead of hosting in its dining room. While it had previously been serving 30-40 meals daily, it has since doubled its capacity to accommodate others. Learn more and connect with Casa Otonal.

Community Soup Kitchen has had to suspend its indoor dining service at Christ Church on Broadway and gone to take-out service only. Because of rising demand, the organization has increased its capacity from 200-300 meals to 300-400 meals a day, and extended its hours of operation. Volunteers and staff are working hard to enforce social distancing. At the same time, CSK has seen a significant drop in food donations because restaurants no longer have surplus food to give. Learn more and connect with Community Soup Kitchen.

FISH delivers food to residents of New Haven, West Haven, and Hamden who are disabled, homebound and food insecure. More than one third of FISH clients are seniors. Since the spread of COVID-19, regular volunteer teams have been asked not to come in while the work is taken up by emergency volunteers from community agencies that have had to temporarily close. Learn more and connect with FISH of Greater New Haven.

Clifford Beers, the family mental health agency, is helping its families stay well nourished by giving out grocery gift cards to client families who are struggling with financial loss because of the pandemic. Case managers are also checking in with families to find out how they are doing and better understand their needs. During one week of the pandemic, Clifford Beers distributed $10,000 worth of cards to 100 families. Learn more and connect with Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic.

WHEAT, which primarily serves West Haven, is waiving its policy of people receiving food one per-month during this crisis so that they can get food as often as they need it. The organization has started to see many people who are furloughed and using its services for the first time. WHEAT anticipates that these numbers will increase and add to the 400 households already served every month. Learn more and connect with WHEAT.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

How Can You Help?

Learn more about all the ways you can give or help the Greater New Haven community on The Foundation's COVID-19 resources page.