Our Daily Bread Food and Resource Center in Stillwater is using a drive-thru approach to distribute aid due to COVID.
Oklahoma's COVID-19 response has included the indefinite closure of countless businesses statewide, and services deemed “essential” are undergoing massive changes in an effort to minimize risks of infection. Our Daily Bread is an essential service committed to providing aid to the community in these critical times.
The organization, which has been fighting food insecurity from its location on 12th Avenue since 2017, has put a great deal of effort into altering ODB’s operations to ensure that the health of community guests, volunteers and staff remains a priority during the escalating pandemic. ODB Executive Director Becky Taylor expressed her commitment to serving the community.
“It is in disasters like this that our underserved neighbors are exposed to greater vulnerability—whether it is access to food, health care, childcare, sick leave, etc.,” Taylor said. “The balance of keeping our volunteers, guests, and staff healthy and at the same time providing food to our neighbors who are left even more at risk of hunger due to the disaster at hand is not one that I take lightly.”
ODB’s unique operation model normally utilizes a “shopping floor”, functioning similarly to that of a grocery store. Guests push shopping carts through the aisles and have the ability to select foods according to individual needs or preferences, significantly cutting down food waste. ODB's ability to provide guests a selection process has been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. A tradeoff was necessary to continue serving a vulnerable clientele.
Under the current drive-thru approach, groceries are boxed by volunteers and placed in the trunks of cars lined up at the front of the center.
“Each household still goes home with non-perishables, meat, eggs, produce, dairy and bread," Taylor said. "Our volunteers and staff wear masks during distribution times as well as use hand sanitizer in between each car that is touched."
ODB Volunteer Coordinator Ben Watson, a recent Human Development and Family Science graduate from OSU, explained how COVID has impacted the volunteer system. Watson has asked all volunteers over the age of 65 to stay home, and they have limited the number of volunteers in the facility to 15 at any given moment.
“Very rarely does ODB have to turn away volunteers, but I have had to turn away many individuals who want to help because we have reached the 15 people,” Watson said.
During normal operations, retirees make up a major portion of the volunteer force, but now the organization is relying on younger people in the community, including college students.
Guests should not be worried about food shortages or a suspension of ODB services, but they should expect these changes along with additional updates that the situation requires. The leadership at ODB continues to monitor CDC guidelines when making decisions that affect operations and has also received assistance from the City of Stillwater in their transition of distribution modes.
Food received from the Retail Recovery program has decreased as the community flocks to grocery stores, but Our Daily Bread continues to receive solid amounts of donations from their partners at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
As always, OSU students in need of assistance are welcome to come during distribution times. Updated information regarding distribution hours and food donations needed during box distribution can be found on the ODB website at https://www.ourdailybreadstillwater.org.
Taylor also said that those in the community looking to help ODB at this time can continue to give financially because the center is now helping more people who find themselves without an income due to the pandemic and needing food.
“I have always said that it takes a village to feed a community,” Taylor stressed. “This is true now more than ever. Each one of us can be an active participant in fighting hunger in our community even when quarantined to our homes.”
“Change can be challenging, but our guests have shown immense appreciation for the new method and the fact that our doors remain open,” added Watson.