St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry rolls out 'drive-through' service

It aims to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Posted at 9:12 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 00:25:26-04

BOISE, Idaho — Food security in the time of Coronavirus is proving difficult for many across the US, but especially for the economically impacted or for older adults on fixed incomes, since they may have trouble accessing basic nutritional needs. That’s why one Idaho organization is introducing a workaround that aims to keep bellies full while reducing the risk of transmission.

Instead of shutting down operations, staff at St. Vincent de Paul's Food Pantry have rolled out a groundbreaking "drive-through pantry" service in order to give food insecure people the food they need — while also protecting the volunteers and the community, helping folks like Spud Watkins.

“I got a cardiovascular disease," said Watkins.

He says he and his wife are both over 70.

“You gotta have food!"

Normally, they’d need to go inside the crowded pantry to shop for the food they need. But now— they can wait in their cars for volunteers to bring food out to them.

“We’re in that position where if we were to get Coronavirus, it’s not good for us," said Watkins.

And he’s right, considering the CDC reports that older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from Coronavirus.

“So right now, this is a good deal for us in Idaho to be able to get some food and keep going, and go home. Stay at home.”

But those helping Watkins, and others, aren’t your usual pantry helpers -- since most of their usuals are over 60 and are isolating.

“With the schools closed, we have four staff members from Whitney Elementary here helping us," said Ralph May, executive director at St. Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho. "And everybody’s been instructed that if they start to feel poorly they are not to come.”

"A University of Idaho basketball player [is] here, pushing carts today."

He's referring to college junior Damen Thacker, one of many younger Idahoans on the Overland property Tuesday with a strong immune system and a pair of latex of gloves.

“You know, you do it for the ones who are going through some things -- who are struggling," said Thacker.

His basketball season with the Vandals just ended, so he’s paying it forward.

"Doing schoolwork from home is pretty simple, ya know -- it’s online, so it’s not a whole lot to do -- you don’t have to go to class or anything. So there’s a lot of free time, and I’m more than willing to to step down here and help everybody out," said Thacker.

But it’s not just older folks they aim to help with this drive-through — it’s also the Idahoans who are missing paychecks.

“We had a young lady that had been told not to come to work today. She’s a waitress. Works for tips. So, she said, 'I need to go to the food pantry,'" said May.

Normally in an entire shift, May says they’d serve about fifty people. But in just an hour and a half of being open Tuesday, he says the numbers already exceeded that.

“We were at 56 that had come through already, in the first hour and a half. Of those, 25 were new [people who had never been to the pantry before]."

May says they do, however, have grave concerns about their food supply running out in the future, so is asking if you have any food you don’t need, to please bring it in to donate.

May says St. Vincent De Paul food pantries in Meridian, Nampa and Caldwell are being turned into drive-throughs as well.

To learn more about how you can help, visit their website.