When the coronavirus arrived in the United States and forced many community-resource organizations to close their doors, we knew we had to act swiftly to ensure our ability to safely remain open and continue supporting those in need, not only in our own neighborhood but throughout the country. Our efforts rapidly evolved into four distinct relief programs: a massive expansion of our Portsmouth Community Kitchen’s capacity to prepare and distribute meals; an updated disaster relief service protocol designed to prevent viral spread among staff, volunteers, and meal recipients; a groundbreaking grocery box program providing nutrition staples to struggling families; and a partnership with USDA distributors to get agricultural surplus to communities in need while supplementing key pantry items necessary for complete meals.
Since our coronavirus response began in March, our teams have served and distributed over 4 million meals. Following the success of our own pilot program, Mercy Chefs started working with USDA Farmers to Families centers to assist in the distribution of their grocery boxes. We are supplementing these produce and dairy boxes with proteins and grains to make it easier for families to prepare complete meals. We are distributing these boxes in locations across Oklahoma, the Panhandle of Florida, and Puerto Rico.
When the year began, we knew we were called to increase in 2020, but none of us could have seen this coming. With the addition of grocery box distribution nationwide, our capacity to reach more people every week has expanded far beyond what we ever could imagine, and the need only continues to grow. Thank you for your continued support.