By Tim Kean, President & CEO
Looking forward we anticipate positive signs of familiar occurrences. In four weeks, it will officially be Spring, with or without cooperation from the weather. We can all remember 70-degree weather during a spring break and other years a big snow storm during the same time period. As it looks now, we should see improvement in community circumstances with COVID-19, kids back in school and possibly restrictions may be a bit loosened as well. Hopefully, a general improvement in the country’s collective disposition as well, wouldn’t that be nice!
As we trudge through the last half of winter, we always are faced with potential cancellations of some of our planned distributions due to extreme weather as we have just experienced. We actually just had one of those rare occurrences when we closed our facility for a couple of days. We decided to error on the side of caution with staff and volunteer safety as things were just too “iffy” with snow, wind chill and drifting. Notifying our partners with all our scheduled deliveries in multiple counties along with in-bound freight companies is no small undertaking. Thankfully, we rarely ever have to grind the gears of this ever-moving vehicle. These things can affect our short-term impact.
We’re very excited as we look toward the rest of 2021 and our longer-term impact with some expansion and new inventory lines that will address some stability barriers for many families. In 2020, we took some big steps in our new relationship as a member of the National Diaper Bank. This allowed us to access and distribute over 247,000 diapers in our 8-county service area. We see 2021 as a year of expansion for this inventory line as we feel we’re just getting started to supply supplemental assistance to families.
We are also expanding our non-food and personal hygiene inventory. Shampoo, bar soap, deodorant, tooth paste, tooth brushes, and laundry detergent are now part of our 2021 growth plan to address much needed items that are not covered by SNAP (Food Stamps).
Because of our membership with the National Diaper Bank we were also connected to the Alliance for Period Supplies. Our first order has been placed for this important resource. Under-resourced adolescents and teenagers can experience higher levels of absenteeism in school, or find themselves relying on supplies that the school staff are providing from their own pocket.
Negative social encounters, bullying, and stigmatizing are difficult enough for kids in general, but can be taken to another level when these resources are scarce or not available at all. Our connections to schools through The Big Idea initiative and our agency partners will provide a pathway for those important supplies to get into the hands of struggling families. We have received enthusiastic feedback from schools where we have shared our plans for this growth.
Some might say, why is a food bank going in a direction that doesn’t have any impact on hunger? We believe that the whole circumstance of a person in a struggling family must be addressed. In addition to physical resources, social, emotional, educational, and spiritual pieces make up a person. Food goes hand in hand with healthy minds and bodies. Access to basic personal care products that contribute toward a healthy lifestyle and positive self-esteem can positively impact a struggling family as much as a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. We see the need and have the opportunity to do both. 2021 will be a very impactful year.