The recent COVID-19 outbreak has forced the closure of schools and retailers alike, but the Westside Food Bank said it has taken the necessary steps to ensure it will continue providing food for anyone in need.

Current CDC recommendations for social distancing make it difficult to gather and sort food, “but we’ve simplified things and made adjustments that have given us a chance to get the same food that we would before COVID ever came,” Westside Food Bank Executive Director Bruce Rankin said in an interview Friday.

So while the public is unable to access the food bank’s offices to donate or receive food at this point, “which is the case of most warehouse operations, right now,” Rankin said, “we are focused on doing everything we can to keep the supply chain going so we can continue accepting food in truckload quantities.”

The commitment of the food bank’s cadre of volunteers is one of the aspects that Rankin said has allowed the essential operations Westside Food Bank to continue during the pandemic.

“Essentially each day, we’re getting multiple pallets of various kinds of fruits and vegetables like pears, cabbage, citrus of some kind, potatoes and more,” Rankin said, which all has to be taken out of vans and repackaged so it’s safe for consumption.

“And let’s say that the volunteer system goes down for some reason,” according to the longtime director, a partnership with the national guard would ensure the food bank still has the workforce needed to get food out.

“We’re also cross training so we can withstand the possibility of our own staff needing to self-isolate in case they test positive or show symptoms of coronavirus or COVID-19,” Rankin said, adding: “So far, everything is successful and we think what we’re doing is adequate for business as usual.”

But the recent projected increases in unemployment benefits applications has the food bank on edge.

“We can project into the future that there will be many, many, many more people in the community who won’t have enough money to buy all their own food,” which is what increases the need at local food pantries, Rankin said. “As a result, we’re working hard on planning ahead to get more storage space and finding more help through volunteers so we can scale up to the need that we expect will have to be served.”

“All of this having been said, we will be spending amounts of money that would ordinarily be unsustainable, especially without an increase in donations,” Rankin added, mentioning the food bank is currently accepting donations online https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/WestsideFoodBank/OnlineDonation.html. “So we definitely are in need of funding from wherever it may come because that will allow us to continue to do our work,” which is to provide efficient and large scale food services to those in need.

brennon@smdp.com