NAMPA, Idaho — Local food pantries saw a spike in demand during a pandemic, and workers and volunteers stepped up to make sure no one went hungry. Now those helpers are getting early access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare updated their COVID-19 estimated vaccine timeline. Under the new version, pantry food workers would be eligible to get the vaccine in mid -February.
"I was excited to see that they put food pantry workers on that because we are so critical to helping feed those that we would call food insecure," Tony Johnson, Director of Care House Partnership, said.
Johnson said the pandemic reduced the number of volunteers they would generally have.
"Before the pandemic, a high percentage of our volunteers were people over 65 years of age—our retired population. But because of COVID, we had to encourage them to stay home, We incorporated the CDC guidelines, but we still wanted to protect them," Johnson said.
IDHW's COVID-19 vaccine timeline shows adults 65 years of age and older would also be able to get the vaccine in early February. For this local pantry, it could mean some regular volunteers will be able to return.
In the last five months, the Care House Food Bank in Nampa saw a record number of families in need of necessary food supplies.
"We have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of people that we are serving at our food bank. Of that, 45 percent are new families that have never come in before," Johnson said.
The Care House Food Bank is open from 12:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. They will provide food to anyone who needs their assistance.