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Demand increases for local food pantry as pandemic continues

While continuing to serve the community through the COVID-19 crisis, the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry still needs donations.
Credit: KFSM

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — The Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry is continuing to serve the campus while COVID-19 causes long-term effects on the Fayetteville community, but the pantry needs help. With monetary donations, it can continue to serve clients during the pandemic.

Throughout March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic began causing major disruption in the United States, the food pantry served 1,388 clients, more than triple the number served in March 2019.

“When the university went to remote operation, having most people work from home on March 19, the Food Pantry began doing the Fast Bags only,” said Sage McCoy, coordinator of food programs for the Center for Community Engagement, a department in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas. “From March 18-31, our team created and distributed 354 Fast Bags, with each bag serving two people in a household.”

One of the issues affecting its operation is the supply chain. Food banks are having a hard time keeping products to share with food pantries. Grocery stores are limiting the number of cans of vegetables, meat and other items, making it nearly impossible for food pantry staff to make needed purchases.

During the month of April, which is normally a time when the food pantry would conduct major food drives to resupply its shelves, those drives are not happening due to the circumstances of the pandemic.

Some local restaurants and businesses have made donations, such as Hugo’s Restaurant donating bread, as well as the Freight Farm on campus donating lettuce. Some monetary donations have come in as well, but it is not enough. The pantry is in need of proteins such as peanut butter, canned meat and canned beans.

Monetary donations work best, and it is very easy to make an online monetary donation to the Food Pantry.

“When we cannot use food drives to get products and the food banks are having difficulty with supplies, we have to shop and fill our shelves from things we buy, which are normal price,” McCoy said. “This is not sustainable in the long run as we are spending more from our account than goes into it. We would really appreciate any monetary donations people may be able to make during this difficult time.”

Physical donations can be accepted but are not encouraged at this time. Arrangements should be made ahead of time to drop those off. Please email Sage McCoy at lsmccoy@uark.edu or call McCoy at 575-4365.

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