Of all the people we encountered at today’s Food Bank of Delaware mobile pantry, not one had ever needed to stand in line for food before.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to record unemployment, shattered prospects for small business, and unexpected requests for basic needs from legions of Delawareans who pride themselves on self-reliance and thriftiness.
For many of the 2,267 households who queued up in the empty parking lot at Christiana Mall today, this was their first time asking for essentials to fill their kitchen pantries.
“Any help — any help at all. This is amazing. They really does help so much. You have no idea,” said one Wilmington mother who offered a big smile and a word of thanks to each volunteer who placed food in her car.
She told us she was picking up food for herself and her 30-year-old son, who was just laid off from his job at DelDOT.
Coincidentally, DelDOT joined members of the Delaware National Guard, the United Way of Delaware and staff at the Food Bank, sending 35 employees to the drive-thru food giveaway today to help register families, direct traffic flow, and distribute food.
“It happens to people you never think it would happen to…”
“It means a lot. People take it for granted – being able to have food on your table. It matters,” she said. “With everything else going on, it relieves a great deal of stress knowing that someone is going to be there. You just have to put your pride aside. I never thought I would be where I am. And it happens to people you never think it would happen to. I don’t second guess people who need help anymore.”
US Sen. Chris Coons, who stood in the car line for hours handing out gallons of milk and blocks of cheese, said public assistance programs during the country’s worst crisis in a century are more important than ever before.
“I was really struck but not surprised by this enormous turnout. But I want people to be able to come here and get food and not have to feel like they’re out of place,” he said. Attorney General Kathy Jennings and NCC County Executive Matt Meyer also came to lend a hand today.
Six drivers we spoke to said they had never taken a handout from the Food Bank. The driver of one car with a friend in the passenger seat told us, “We have both been laid off, and we’re trying not to dip into our savings. I’m in healthcare, but I’m high risk. So, I can’t work.”
Another woman, a mother of three, said she and her husband were both revelry laid off as cooks at a restaurant.
“Things have been really tough. “I always try to work and get our own stuff, and we don’t ask for food like we are now. My kids are 17, 14 and 8 and they eat a lot – like adults,” she said.
When asked if she is concerned about how long the coronavirus might impact their family’s resources she said, “We are really worried. We keep paying rent and bills and we just keep waiting. I feel like it’s gonna be really hard,” she said.
The mobile pantry was supposed to start at 11 am. But because homeowners stared queuing up at 7, the Food Bank opened the giveaway at 9 am. They had plenty of food and provided sliced meats, cereal, bags of apples and oranges, bread, large bags of mixed nuts, tomato sauce, soup, other canned goods as well as dairy products to every car.
If Delaware residents could establish that two or three passengers resided at different homes, they received double or triple the amount of food.
As difficult as it was for some to take the handout, one woman was determined to stay positive. “It’s so much thankfulness, and beauty, just being able to come here — these people,” she said.
To make a contribution to the Food Bank of Delaware’s COVID-19 Response program, visit their website: https://www.fbd.org. Or to donate food, please click here: https://www.fbd.org/get-involved/donate-food-2/.
There are two more drive-thru mobile pantries this week – one each in Kent and Sussex Counties.
When: Wednesday, April 22 starting at 11:00 a.m.
Where: Dover International Speedway (please enter through the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino entrance); 1131 North Dupont Highway, Dover
When: Friday, April 24 starting at 12 noon
Where: Sussex Central High School (upon arrival, please follow traffic message boards), 26026 Patriots Way, Georgetown
Pre-registration has been set up for each pantry to help speed up the check-in process. But on-site registration is also available. Participants should bring proof of identification and Delaware residency.