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Mobile food pantries for Coronavirus

A number of communities as well as charity organizations are setting up mobile food pantries or “pop up” food banks to help feed Americans during these challenging financial times triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic. Tens of millions of Americans have already lost their jobs, had a reduction in hours or income, or lost their businesses due to COVID-19. Many (most?) jobs may never return. People are struggling to feed their families, pay the bills, and make it through the day. A Mobile food pantry near them may be able to help, while at the same time keeping you as safe and healthy as possible as they honor social distancing rules.

The unemployment rate is already at an estimated 15%, which is already higher than the 2007-2009 “great recession”. While no one knows what the nation’s economic future holds and things change by the day or week, many experts say unemployment can go into the 20% or higher range as a result of COVID-19. It could be much worse than the great depressions from the 1920s and 30s. Millions of Americans need food, groceries, and personal items. A mobile food pantry can help meet the demand, especially with many grocery stores struggling with demand and shortages.

Find a mobile food bank or pop up pantry

Sadly, many charitable “free-standing” food pantries have closed during the coronavirus pandemic. It is very hard for them to get workers (most of whom are volunteers) to staff the pantry and pass out food. As in effect every worker at a food pantry, grocery store, hospital, delivery service, etc. is putting their life and risk, and they are all heroes these days. They all should be appreciated and honored.

Regular food pantries also struggle to get not only people to work or volunteer there, but they also struggle to get donations of canned food, personal toiletries, household supplies, fresh produce and more. Many “regular” foods pantries have turned to mobile type operations – they only set up if when they have the volunteers and resources available to do so.

There are a few organizations that have really focused on setting up mobile food pantries in communities across the United States. There is bound to be one near you. The primary options include:

-Feeding America. Look for mobile Feeding America pantries.
-Salvation Army. Search for food banks from Salvation Army by state.
-Charities affiliated with the United Way. Find United way assistance programs.

Many other churches, charities, and non-profits may also be operating free mobile food banks or even soup kitchens these days. You can always call a regular free food pantry near you and make inquires. As the hours, locations, dates, etc. can change at any amount. Like almost everything these days.

Rules and regulations of mobile food pantries during Coronavirus pandemic

As with everything these days, things can change by the hour. But in general, every mobile or pop up food bank will follow social distancing rules and regulations that are in place by that state or municipality. They will almost always be drive up pantries. Most mobile food banks will want people to wear masks, have their own boxes or bags as food may just be handed to them, and there will be other rules in place. Be sure to follow them so all the courageous, hard working volunteers at a food bank can stay healthy and safe.

Be safe, courteous, patient, and grateful. Food pantry workers, like the people in hospitals and grocery stores, are risking their lives to help you out. Almost everyone’s life has been upended these days, with most households under tremendous financial stress and hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No one is entitled to assistance from a mobile food pantry, and if one can help be super thankful for any assistance at all.

Frankly I am sick of seeing people who can’t leave a little bit of “social distance” (and follow a simple rule) or reading/hearing about people complaining about being in effect in their own home (where they are safe and healthy and just need to stay in their home) while so many people are stepping up to risk themselves in grocery stores, meat processing plants, food banks, delivering products, farms, hospitals, critical medical factories, food pantries and other locations. Where would be as a country if those workers were not doing what they are, at risk to themselves. While laws vary, some of them could even quit their jobs and get unemployment for quitting which may be more than their salary due to federal enhancements. But those volunteers and workers don’t, and risk themselves at work in a mobile pantry or wherever.

Even as I type that an estimated 50 grocery store employees have died from COVID-19 and thousands of more have been infected. It is only safe to assume mobile food pantry workers are also getting sick from coronavirus. Major meat processing plans are now close to shutting down due to worker safety issues…most people in the safety of their own homes and on their couches I think rarely have any idea what people are doing out there to keep the “basics” of the economy going.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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