As the coronavirus outbreak continues, Johnson Park Center in Utica hosted a drive-thru food pantry to help individuals in need, and keep them safe in the process.
The organization's monthly giveaways are typically walk-in settings, but with the threat of the virus, they had to make adjustments.
"We came up with the drive-thru because the COVID-19 virus, we all have to have a 6-foot distance. Our monthly giveaway, we have too many people, so we came up with a food pantry drive-thru,” said Reverend Ursula Meier, the COO of Johnson Park Center.
It’s the first time the pantry has moved to a drive-thru system. Volunteers wore masks and took other precautions.
"We had a staff meeting a couple weeks ago about this. The distance and everything, washing hands; every safe precaution is very helpful,” said Gene McCleary, a volunteer for the organization.
Cars lined up and were given their choice of a variety of foods, including beans, fruit, meat and others.
"We do an intake, we ask how many households, you drive down the street, and we're putting the items in your car,” Meier said.
As individuals made their way through the drive-thru, volunteers worked to pack and distribute bags filled with different items, making sure hundreds of families will be fed.
"Today we received 32,000 pounds [of food], and we expect to give that out today," says Meier.
It comes as the coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyday life.
"Everybody's struggling, even myself. It's always good to help out and to give back,” McCleary said. “But I know a lot of people, friends that I know that are struggling too, and I said there's no shame to come out and get some help."
Johnson Park Center is hosting a walk-in pantry Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for those who don’t drive. More information about their giveaways can be found on their Facebook page.