Food Bank COVID-19 Response Plan

Many families we serve live paycheck to paycheck, often having trouble getting enough food each day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional devastating effects for them and many others newly unemployed.

While the Food Bank has always worked hard to ensure plenty of food goes out to our Partner Agencies for their clients, the increase in distribution in the last few months was record breaking. This April, the Food Bank distributed 3.8 million pounds of food through our network, compared to last April’s 2.5 million, all of which is going to families facing food insecurity, many for the first time.

With no plans of slowing down, we will continue to work to meet the increased need for food assistance. We appreciate the continued, generous support from the community in helping fight hunger and feed hope in eastern Oklahoma.

Click here to give the gift of food. Any funds raised to support our COVID-19 response may also be used in our everyday fight against hunger.

SNAP (formerly food stamps) is America’s first line of defense against hunger. Increasing benefits during this pandemic will help children, seniors, and those with disabilites who make up 2 out of 3 people receiving SNAP benefits. It will support the local economy, and will relieve pressure faced by charitable organizations helping our community get through this situation.

For more information on how SNAP benefits Oklahoma, including ways to contact our Oklahoma delegation, CLICK HERE. For a great read on the strength of SNAP and how it functions alongside the work of charitable organizations like ours, read this article. Please join with our Feeding America network and encourage strong support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Here are some of the measures taken by the Food Bank thus far:

The primary focus of the Food Bank remains working with an efficient network of 730 Partner Agencies and direct service programs. We provide partners with shelf-stable items and fresh produce so they can provide food resources to people in need within their communities through their usual distribution methods. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Food Bank provided the equivalent of 464,000 meals each week. That number is steadily rising.

In addition to an increase in our typical food distribution of fresh produce and shelf-stable pantry items, emergency boxes of shelf-stable food are becoming available to many Partners Agencies to feed their clients. Thanks to a generous grant from the Richison Family Foundation, the Food Bank has greatly expanded the capacity to provide additional emergency relief boxes to our Partner Agencies.

Soup’s On TheFood Bank’s culinary team has worked hard to establish, through May, weekly freshly prepared soup and meal food assistance. Each person drives through to receive a generous 32 ounces of soup, freshly prepared by the Culinary Center, and 2 meals from Tulsa Kitchens Unite, all of which are frozen ready to heat-and-eat. In addition, each family also receives shelf-stable and other food items to help keep nutritious food on the table.

Drive-Through Distribution The Food Bank hosted a drive-through food distribution to help people newly needing assistance due to the health and employment effects of COVID-19. The distribution was a result of outreach efforts to partners in the restaurant industry, several churches, and senior service agencies whose members and clients may need assistance at this time. Each family received a relief box filled with a variety of shelf-stable items, as well as fresh produce and frozen, ready-to-eat meals from the Culinary Center.

Pop-Up Distributions Here are some examples of new creative partnerships. With the help of the National Guard, and in partnership with First Physicians Capital Group, the tiny town Fairfax Oklahoma received an emergency food distribution. North Peoria Church of Christ was able to provide product from the Food Bank, along with toiletry items and internet hotspots for families without access. Led by our partner, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic Charities, a donation of 40,000 pounds of frozen chicken from OK Foods was distributed to families in need throughout LeFlore County.

Culinary Center With an almost overwhelming increase in need for food assistance, Chef Marlow and the culinary team have partnered with dozens of local restaurants, non-profits and grocery stores to provide thousands of meals each week and better meet the needs of the community.

“We want to give people as much dignity as we can,” Chef Marlow said. “Times are tough but we’re going to get through this together. That’s really what keeps us going.”

Tulsa Kitchens Unite, a new partnership recently formed with the Food Bank, Hunger-Free Oklahoma, Tulsa Public Schools, and a variety of local restaurants and kitchens. TKU has three key goals: keep local restaurants open, keep workers paid, and keep local families fed. Funding for the program was provided by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, The Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation, and the Maxine & Jack Zarrow Family Foundation. Under the leadership of Jeff Marlow, Director of Culinary Services, partnership meals will be prepared through a variety of kitchens, including the Food Bank’s Culinary Center, and provided to families at no cost.

The Food Bank Culinary Center prepares and freezing 10,000 complete meals from donated and purchased food each week. Through Chef Marlow’s strong relationships in the restaurant community, he secured many food donations to help with those meals. Many of the Culinary Center meals are distributed to under-served neighborhoods through a partnership with Food on The Move and the Dream Center.

Food for Kids, School Pantry Program The Food Bank continues to offer food to students through the school pantry program. Several schools and campus pantries remain open. They currently distribute emergency boxes to students in need.

Food for Kids, Backpack Program A few schools in the Tulsa area and rural counties still participate by providing food to children through the weekend Backpack Program.

Senior Distributions After learning of the dire need of many older residents living in Tulsa Housing Authority (THA) senior communities, the Food Bank quickly mobilized emergency boxes of shelf-stable food with the help of TPC and ABCO to each resident. A few days later, a delivery of fresh produce to THA senior residents supplemented the shelf-stable food they recently received. Deliveries of food to THA senior housing continues.

Mobile Pantries continue to provide shelf-stable food and fresh produce to communities where retail outlets and food pantries are scarce, including Mobile Pantries that focus on the needs of veteran communities.

YST Support The Food Bank provided emergency boxes to Youth Services of Tulsa (YST).  YST has independent housing for youth who are engaged in work or furthering their education. Many lost jobs in the food sector with public gathering restrictions. The Culinary Center also provides complete meals to the YST shelter.

The Food Bank will continue to respond quickly to emerging needs as the situation continues to evolve.

Need Food Assistance?

If you need extra assistance, please click on the Get Help button at the top of this page. It includes ways to to find a pantry close to home or to connect with our team. You can also find additional resources by calling 211. Hunger-Free Oklahoma will maintain a state-wide food resource page. For students in the Tulsa area, information is available from Tulsa Public Schools. They will have several sites with meals available for any child 18 or under in addition to some meal delivery. Many other school districts have similar programs. Please check with your local school district.

Volunteers:

We want to thank everyone who cares to step forward and help fight food insecurity. However, with the steady increase of COVID-19 cases the Food Bank has decided to close most volunteer shifts with the exception of outside work, in order to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved. Please check back regularly, we will open again as soon as it is safe to do so. Thanks again.

For volunteer engagement, best safe practices are in place for safe physical distancing, cleanliness, and sanitary conditions. We request that volunteers who have them to please bring face masks.

Due to capacity limits and safety issues, please note:

We require all volunteers to schedule their session. Please go to our volunteer page to register. We accept volunteers over the age of 16. We recommend that volunteers 60 and older use caution.

We will continue to adapt as we learn more about COVID-19 and will continue to update our information as changes occur.

Updated 6/26/2020