CHESTERTOWN — Kent County’s food pantries are continuing their mission to feed those in need as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to change how we go about our daily lives.
On Tuesday morning, March 24, food supplies were being handed out at a pair of pantries in Chestertown.
The Kent County Food Pantry operates out of Christ United Methodist Church at the corner of High and Mill streets. The Kent County Food Pantry has changed its operations to maintain social distancing and the 6-foot rule to protect against COVID-19.
“We have moved our operations to curbside (pickup),” said Program Director Sue Caswell. “Rigorous infection control procedures are being followed.”
The Kent County Food Pantry is pre-bagging items for clients. The bags are then placed at the curb as clients arrive for pickup.
Caswell said all the bags of household items are the same size for each client.
In addition, the Kent County Food Pantry is asking that all donations for its clients be taken to the Kent County Community Center in Worton.
The pantry is maintaining its regular hours of operation. Clients may pick up the pre-packed bags between 10 a.m. and noon every Tuesday and Thursday and the second Wednesday of the month.
“Eligibility is determined by Kent County’s Department of Social Services, by local clergy, schools, law enforcement, and other caring individuals in the County,” the Kent County Food Pantry website states.
Referral vouchers are available at the Department of Social Services at 350 High St., Chestertown.
The Chestertown Seventh-day Adventist Church hosts a food pantry from 10 a.m. to noon every second, fourth and fifth Tuesday, according to its website.
The church’s food pantry has not gone to curbside, yet. Clients still enter through the side of the church, located at 305 N. Kent St.
Coordinator Jessie Stant said volunteers are taking a common-sense approach to managing the flow of clients through the church’s food pantry.
“We’re only letting in 10 at a time,” Stant said. “We’re not letting anyone in with a cough, sneeze or flu-like symptoms.”
Also, no children under 18 years old are being allowed in the pantry area.
Stant prefers for clients to come in and select the items they want. She said the other option would be to pre-bag items and pass them out, much like what the Kent County Food Pantry is doing.
“But we kind of like them to be able to have a little bit of a variety and pick out what they like to eat,” Stant said.
Clients sign in at the church and then move through the various food areas. Volunteers handling the food wear gloves. Some also opted to don masks on March 24.
“And we’re scrubbing down everything,” Stant said.
Stant said the Chestertown Seventh-day Adventist Church’s food pantry is still in good shape with supplies. She said they continue to receive donations from Render’s and Acme.
“Both have been very generous to give us what they can. Of course, their shelves are getting low too,” Stant said.
According to the Chestertown Seventh-day Adventist Church’s website, no registration with state services is needed. The site states that clients should be Maryland residents.
Stant said the number of clients has dipped in recent weeks from 90 to 110 to about 70.
“We’re just trying to stay open. We’re going to ride out this storm,” Stant said. “I think people here are really appreciative.”
Meanwhile as the school system here continues to provide meals to students during the state-mandated closure, dinners are being added to the packages.
According to a notification from Kent County Public Schools, meal packages previously containing breakfast and lunch will now have dinners included.
The meals are being distributed at seven sites throughout Kent County: Galena Elementary School, Garnet Elementary School in Chestertown, Rock Hall Elementary School, the Baywood Village community room in Fairlee, Millington Town Hall, the Betterton firehouse and the Kent County Community Center in Worton.
The meal packages are available for pick up by anyone 18 years old or younger between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday during the state-mandated closure of schools.
The list of sites started with the three schools and grew thanks to the efforts of volunteers. More sites are continuing to be added.
In addition, the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice is partnering with local groups on an effort to ensure children and the elderly in Kent County have the food they need.
According to an email Monday, March 23 from Sumner Hall President Larry Wilson, the Feed the Children and Elderly Initiative seeks to bolster the school system’s efforts as the Social Action Committee is mobilizing volunteers to prepare and deliver meals to those individuals who are unable to pick them up at the designated collection points.
For more information, contact SACracialjustice@gmail.com.
Sumner Hall is collaborating with the Social Action Committee to collect donations to purchase additional food needed for the Feed the Children and Elderly Initiative, according to Wilson’s email. Visit garpost25.org/donate to learn more.
“Thank you for considering making a donation to Feed the Children and Elderly Initiative,” Wilson wrote. “Our community appreciates the volunteer and financial support that powers this important initiative!”