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Blue Ridge Area Food Bank will keep operating during 'Stay at Home' order

(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 30, 2020 at 5:56 PM EDT
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The 'Stay at Home' order

does not apply to essential needs, like food.

As such, food banks, including the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, will continue to operate no matter what to perform an essential social service, as will soup kitchens and homeless shelters and other similar services.

Just as BRAFB did before Northam's March 30 order, the food bank says they will continue to implement strict health and sanitization practices in their warehouses to protect staff members, volunteers, and visitors.

The food bank mainly supplies community food pantries, feeding programs, and shelters with food to provide directly to people in need.

Anyone in need of food assistance right now can call 211 to reach Virginia's hotline for social services amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor announced in his Monday briefing that the state has gotten federal approval for more funds to support feeding programs across the state for more people, regardless of normal financial requirements.

During the 'Stay at Home' order, the food bank will be providing volunteers and staff who travel on food bank business to and from their various warehouse locations with exemption letters to prove their reasons for traveling.

The food bank also still needs more volunteers for their warehouse and mobile pantries: specifically healthy, low-risk volunteers.

The food bank said they've seen an increased demand for food, and they're adapting their processes to lower the risk of exposure to clients and volunteers.

Due to the changes, they're in need of more people to help out. If you're interested in volunteering, there are several opportunities. People can call one of the more than

to see if help is needed. The warehouses in Charlottesville, Verona, Lynchburg, and Winchester have activities available for volunteers as well.

"Our top priority is making sure food pantries can remain operational in their local communities," Michael McKee, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank CEO, said. "We are here to empower them, provide them with food."

Volunteers can

at their nearest warehouse location. There are also ten mobile food pantry sites that are in need of help as well.

"We are pre-packing boxes full of [non-perishable] food so that volunteers at local food pantries have an easier time of it. They can hand those boxes to people on a drive-thru basis," McKee said.

The food bank said while they aren't able to ensure six feet of space between volunteers for every project, they are scheduling more shifts with fewer people to reduce risk. They've also implemented frequent sanitation routines practiced throughout the day.

The food bank has also temporarily lowered the age requirement to allow volunteers 16 and older. Ideally, they would like those volunteers to be accompanied by an adult, since there won't always be someone available to supervise teens who can't work on their own.

All of the shifts are scheduled during the day, and new shifts will be added over time. BRAFB recommends creating a volunteer account that can be checked often. Some Saturday shifts will be scheduled, as well as some evening shifts eventually. The first Saturday shift is this Saturday, March 21 in Verona.

“If there’s any silver lining in our new normal, it’s the evidence that we live and work in communities where people care about each other and about folks in need. The Food Bank is receiving questions and inquiries from people in a position to help, who want to know what they can do for others impacted by this pandemic,” said Karen Ratzlaff, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “Volunteering is one of the best ways individuals can provide that much needed help.”

If you aren't able to volunteer, you can also consider a financial donation to BRAFB. Those can be made on their

.