Typically, the Dublin Food Pantry sees two to three new families seeking assistance each week.

Now, however, the pantry is adding about seven new families per day, said Denise Youngsteadt-Parrish, executive director.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues, ramifications are being felt at the pantry, she said.

Youngsteadt-Parrish said in March the pantry saw an increase of well over 200% in the number of new families seeking assistance.

“What does that mean for April? That’s the unknown for us,” she said.

As the pandemic progresses, Youngsteadt-Parrish said, she anticipates the number of new families coming to the pantry to continue to grow.

“We’re glad we’re here,” she said.

The pantry works closely with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and has doubled the amount of its weekly order from the food bank, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.

“That’s our attempt to get ahead of this as much as we possibly can,” she said.

Whereas the coronavirus has forced the pantry to limit its volunteers at the facility to a maximum of 10 at any one time, it also necessitated a change in the way the pantry distributes food.

The pantry historically operated as a choice pantry, which allowed people to shop for items in the facility in the same way that they would in a grocery store, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.

Families were able to receive a five-day, three-meals-a-day package based on the number of people per family, she said.

In March, the pantry implemented a drive-thru for its clients to limit the number of people in the building, she said.

“It turned out to be a no-brainer,” she said.

Volunteers wearing gloves meet clients at their vehicles and register families with either a laptop or tablet computer, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.

People still receive plenty of items but no longer have any say in what they receive, she said. Boxes include such items as spaghetti noodles, pasta, sauce, peanut butter and jelly.

The boxes can provide families with three meals a day for three days, Youngsteadt-Parrish said, though “that’s stretching it.”

Clients previously were allowed to visit the pantry weekly for produce and monthly for a shop-through, she said. With the advent of drive-thru, the pantry is allowing them to visit twice monthly.

The pantry is dependent on the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and “simply would not be here without them,” Youngsteadt-Parrish said.

The pantry also receives donations from grocery stores, but the amount of items has dwindled since stores no longer have the food, she said.

The pantry used to do 24 pickups at grocery stores per week and now is down to three pickups per week, she said.

“They don’t have excess,” she said.

Malik Perkins, public-relations manager for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, said many of its 680 partner agencies within its 20-county area have also switched to drive-thru service.

The food collective’s onsite pantry – Kroger Community Food Pantry – has been offering drive-thru service to clients since March 12, he said.

The Kroger pantry has experienced a 222% increase in clients compared to the same time last year, Perkins said. As unemployment in the state rises, clients need to visit the pantry more frequently, and new ones are visiting, as well.

“That’s where the increase comes from,” he said.

Thus far, the food collective is able to meet demand, thanks to community support, Perkins said. Customers may either visit the Kroger pantry, 3960 Brookham Drive in Grove City, or go to midohiofoodbank.org to search for pantries by ZIP code.

“We are here for people during this time,” Perkins said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah