Just like everyone else, Hands Across Mathews is having a challenging time finding all the groceries it needs, and food distribution chairman Carroll Jackson doesn’t see it getting better anytime soon.
A non-profit charitable organization that assists people in need, Hands Across Mathews has been distributing food to qualifying residents every Wednesday for many years. Jackson said the organization gets most of its food from the Peninsula Food Bank, which gets its food from large grocery chains such as Food Lion and Kroger.
The problem, said Jackson on Wednesday morning, is that grocery stores are running low on food because of the current rise in demand, and they’re not able to provide as much to the food banks as usual.
“There was very little at the food bank yesterday,” said Jackson. “People will be getting less.”
He said he expects the problem to get worse as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. While individuals routinely come by every week with food donations, said Jackson, those donations have been dropping off the past couple of weeks because people are trying to stock up for themselves, since they don’t know how long the pandemic and the resultant shortages will last.
“It’s a little bit on the rough side,” said Jackson. “We do what we’re able to do because of the people, and if they can’t help us, we can’t help other people.”
Now that a case of COVID-19 has been identified in a Mathews resident, Jackson said, “the bad news you’re seeing on TV has come home to roost. It’s closer to you, and it will have a greater effect.”
On top of a food shortage, Jackson said some volunteers aren’t coming out to help because “the moment you find out a virus can kill you, it puts a different light on things.”
“Mathews is a small place, and we bump into people all the time,” he said. “I don’t want to go out to help someone else and have my family catch something.”
Hands Across Mathews volunteers always use gloves during a food distribution, said Jackson, but they don’t have masks, and he doesn’t expect to find any available. So for now, rather than have people enter the building to “shop” for their goods, the volunteers have created a circular drive, and they’re having people stay in their cars. A volunteer will ask a person seated in the car what they want, go inside and get what’s needed, and deliver the items to the car. That way, there’s no physical contact.
“We’re working as a network on the inside to produce what’s going outside,” said Jackson. “It makes it a little bit rougher.”
Jackson said that people are frightened, and that the mixed messages they’re hearing from professionals aren’t helping any.
“People are grabbing at straws because they’re scared. Every day there’s something different. ‘Who should I believe?’ You believe the one you like to believe, but sometimes that’s not the facts,” he said. “You need to base yourself on the facts and take the emotion out of it.”
There are still people who don’t believe they can catch the virus, said Jackson, and that puts everybody at risk.
“The world is changing because of this pandemic, and it will be different from now on,” he said. “It will be a learning experience for a lot of people.”