Starting on Thursday the Nolensville Food Pantry will begin providing food boxes for families in need in response to the nationwide economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 outbreak, also known as the Coronavirus, has shut down operations across the county and was the reasoning behind Gov. Bill Lee’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 12. This was followed by a national state of emergency that was declared by President Donald Trump on March 13 and a closure of schools across the county.
The Nolensville Food Pantry, a ministry of Providence Baptist Church, was faced with a sudden influx of individuals and families in need. These included students who may rely on a daily meal from a school lunchroom and workers who may be facing layoffs or furloughs as some businesses self-impose work restrictions that adhere to the ever-changing Centers for Disease and Prevention guidelines.
Some of those restrictions have resulted in restaurants resorting to curbside pickup of food or only delivery.
In addition, long lines and empty shelves at grocery stores mean that the food pantry has also struggled to maintain stocked.
In November when Noland and volunteers were filling their annual Thanksgiving boxes, Noland said that she had seen it all — family emergencies or loss of a job or just a rough patch in life — to bring someone into the pantry in a time of need.
Just four months later, she said she's never seen anything like this, but add that she's confident that they can adapt and continue to serve.
“Last Thursday we shut the pantry down to regroup and figure out what we feel is the best way to love and help our neighbors,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Now she and others are working to meet this need by continuing to provide boxes to their fluid list of families that they have donated to in the past, a list that could have as wide of potential needs for dozens of families.
Nolan said that the pantry will have a weekly-updating list of needs that they hope to get met through donations from both individuals and businesses who can spare to help their needs and the needs of families, which could also fluctuate as the impact of the virus continues to be felt.
This weeks needs list included bagged dry rice, bagged dry beans, crackers, black beans, Great Northern beans, dry milk and canned fruit.
This items will be added to weekly boxes that will include “the basics,” such as cereal, canned vegetables, canned meat, soups, peanut butter and even a few rolls of toilet paper. The boxes will also be packed with a rotating assortment of goods such as condiments, flour or sugar, and the pantry is also receiving weekly donations of bread and pastries from Publix.
Noland said that while a lot of changes are happening very quickly in the name of safety, one major change will be the lack of interaction with families and neighbors that they’ve forged relationships with.
“I’m going to miss just the interaction with the people,” Noland said. “It’s going to be a whole new norm for all of us, but right now it’s going to be the safest way to do it, and we’ll pre-package it and do it at least until we can figure out how long this is going to last and what’s going on.”
Due to the public health risk, the food pantry is modifying how families actually pick up the goods, opting for a drive-thru style operation with limited people actually packing the boxes and adding that only a few people are authorized to actually enter the pantry.
The pantry staff is working with counselors and churches who can help facilitate with families in need, both as a way connect with recipients and as a way to track the donations in order to make sure they are distributed evenly to those in need.
With several new families added to their list this week, the pantry has already received some donations to match that growing need.
“We’ve had many online donations for us,” Noland said, “Everybody’s just really coming together and doing a wonderful job.”
Noland said that anyone who wants to donate to the food pantry can do so by following this link and selecting “Nolensville Food Pantry” under “Giving Type” and making a monetary donation.
“I’m sure we’re going to be doing this for quite a while,” Noland said. “We really want to be protective of our workers, of the people that come in — We don’t want to be the people who help spread the Coronavirus. We want to have our hands clean and not really spread any germs, that we’re not helping this in anyway spread, but that we’re still helping people as this goes along.”
The Nolensville Food Pantry is located at 1668 Sunset Road and is open on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.
More information about the Nolensville Food Pantry is available on its website.