There is no denying that we find ourselves in tough times. Social distancing has drastically changed our normal daily routines. Nebraskans have had their hours cut or lost their jobs altogether. This economic distress has increased the difficulty many people are facing in putting food on the table. Thankfully, tough times often bring out the good in people.
So many organizations around Nebraska are doing incredible work in easing the burdens people are facing. Along with our health care workers and first responders, organizations that meet nutritional needs are also on the front lines in the fight against the effects of this virus, and food banks have seen a surge in requests. Among these is the Food Bank of Lincoln, which serves Southeast Nebraska by acting as a food distribution center for food pantries in 16 counties. They have seen higher levels of need than ever, and they anticipate that the volume of requests will continue to rise throughout the coming months.
But with an increase in demand has come an increase in generosity. The Food Bank of Lincoln has been able to rely on the help of the Lincoln COVID-19 Response Fund, which the City of Lincoln formed with the help of local business and philanthropic leaders to meet emergency needs in the city. They have also stressed that demand continues to far exceed the size of the fund, and they have asked that people who are able to give do so through the Lincoln Community Foundation.
Other food pantries, such as the Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership, have also seen an uptick in requests. In the face of these challenging circumstances, they have begun to innovate. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, they have begun conducting business by phone, and they have started to box up food and leave it in baskets outside people’s houses.
The Salvation Army in Hastings has changed their practices as well. They are taking food directly to those in need with a mobile food unit, which they drive from neighborhood to neighborhood to serve hot meals.
Schools across Nebraska have been closed for weeks, but that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to serve their students. On top of instituting a remote learning program, Holdrege Public Schools is offering free meals five days a week, where any child under the age of 18 can pick up lunch and the next day’s breakfast at no charge, and adults can do the same for just $4. Kearney Public Schools is offering a similar program, which has allowed them to serve nearly 800 meals per day throughout this crisis.
These are just a few examples of the remarkable efforts to address food insecurity that are occurring all across our great state. While there is stress, uncertainty, and anxiety right now, it is “chicken soup” to our souls to see these groups stepping up to help provide relief to others.
Unfortunately, many of these organizations are facing a decline in the number of volunteers who are able to assist with their programs. If you are able to volunteer or lend a hand in any way, the organizations my staff and I have spoken with have stressed that they can always use more help. I encourage you to reach out to those in your area to see how you might best be able to assist them in their mission.
We are living in a difficult and unusual moment. In times like this, I think it is all the more important to remember the good in others, and to ask ourselves how we can help.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.