TULSA, Okla. — The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is kicking it into high gear as COVID-19 continues to prevent hundreds of seniors citizens from going to grocery stores for fresh produce and leave thousands out of work without a steady income to guarantee food on the table.
“With the times that we’re in right now, we can’t just close. Every body can’t close. People still have to eat," said Culinary Director Jeff Marlow. “We won’t close down unless we are forced to close down. We are going to be here for this community."
Usually, the food banks feed over 600,000 people each week in 24 counties in eastern Oklahoma with their multiple partner agencies.
"We feed a lot of people when things are considered good," Marlow said. "So, now we are needed even more and pushing even more for the community."
Due to coronavirus health concerns, the food bank can no longer allow volunteers to help. The kitchen team is usually around 15-20 people, but the food bank has dialed back to just three to five staff members at a time.
“We’re doing things to stay safe and healthy so we can keep doing what we’re doing," Marlow said.
Despite the depleted numbers, staff are still determined to feed those in need.
“We’re averaging about 300 meals for families of five every day," said Jeremy Johnson, the soux chef. “We have a good team here, and its very important to us that we get these meals out."
Each meal the food bank team produces feeds about four to six people. By noon Wednesday, the team had already made 1,000 meals.
“Everyone in our community gives to us and it’s our turn to give back. So, we are happy to do it and its a privilege," said Mattie Sloan, the mobile eatery manager. ”We’re going to continue to put out as many meals as possible.”
It's a labor of love that staff say they are excited to take on.
“It’s like an episode of 'Chopped' coming in every day to work with the variety of produce and proteins that are donated to us," Johnson said. "Our bodies need as much as they can get right now. So having this fresh produce and incorporating it into our meals is a really good thing."
The team is partnering with Food on to Move to deliver the meals to senior citizens and families in need.
“This kind of saves them from having to cook, too, and from having to go out and gather fresh ingredients that may or may not be there at the time," Sloan said.
The food bank staff hopes their actions will help continue to fill hearts with hope by filling bellies with food.
“We’re going to keep driving because our heart has always been to help people," Marlow said.
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