Two local food pantries are doing everything they can to meet the needs of families and individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food distribution requests have increased at Neighbors Helping Neighbors and the New Franklin Cares Food Pantry.

The next distribution dates for Neighbors are 8-10:30 am. May 5, 6-8 p.m. May 14 and 9-11 a.m. May 16 at 509 Water St. in Boonville. Distribution dates typically are the first Tuesday, the second Thursday and the Third Saturday.

The next distribution for New Franklin is 1-3 p.m. April 30 at 105 E. Broadway in New Franklin. Distributions typically take place 1-3 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

The increased demand has led to a shortage of canned goods Neighbors President Cindy Newton said. Before the pandemic, families were limited to two sacks of canned food. It is now one. New Franklin bases food packages off of family size.

“We’re very fortunate that we have such caring and giving people in the community that have supported the food pantry all along,” Newton said. “We have some money for food, but we can’t find the canned goods to buy.”

Distribution practices have changed. Food now is boxed and placed into the trunks of Neighbors patron vehicles by volunteers. They also wear masks, gloves and maintain social distancing, Newton said.

“Before, we would have them come in and shop with a volunteer and get their food, but now they’re staying in their vehicles,” she said.

There are three food pantries in Cooper County — Boonville, Prairie Home and Otterville-which are always in need of monetary or non-perishable food donations, Newton said. Donations tend to come from churches and individuals.

New Franklin is doing a drive-up distribution. Patrons remain in their vehicles while a volunteer takes down their information, which includes name, family size, number of children and number of those over 60, regardless of SNAP participation. They then receive their food package based on that family size.

New Franklin will continue the drive-up distribution for as long as there is a health risk, Clark said.

“As long as there is a danger of the virus spreading, that’s how long we’ll continue to do it this way,” she said.

While patrons do not have to wear a mask when picking up a food package, volunteers are wearing gloves, masks and regularly wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes.

Distributions have definitely increased, Clark said.

“We tend to do more distribution at the end of the month than in the beginning,” she said.

New Franklin distributed to 109 households in February, which equates to 259 people, 75 of which were younger than 18, 77 over the age of 60 and 29 SNAP participants. March had an increase to 156 households, which equates to 445 people, where 137 were under 18, 94 over 60 and 23 SNAP participants.

Recent pantry donations came from the Howard County Cattleman’s Association with 100 pounds of ground beef, Clark said. Volunteers also have picked up venison in Harrisburg three times.

“We generally give most everything that we get,” Clark said. “If we get cases and cases of canned goods of course we don’t give all of those out [at one time]. If someone gives us dried beans, that’s what they get. Our goal is to get some form of cereal, protein and vegetable.”

What the New Franklin Pantry receives from the Food Bank of central and northeast Missouri in Columbia is now mostly a surprise, she said. Volunteers go Mondays to pick up food but have to stay in their cars, so they do not really have a choice of what is received.

Clark is proud New Franklin also offers senior boxes for Howard County. These special food packages are for senior nutritional needs and must be applied for.

“Most seniors pick up their boxes, but we also deliver to the senior housing,” she said.

Other food banks that hold distributions in Howard County are located in Fayette and Glasgow.

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