ESSAY: Penfield Food Shelf responds to COVID-19

Kathy Cummins

For over 20 years, the Penfield community has been helping its neighbors experiencing food insecurity through the Penfield Ecumenical Food Shelf. PEFS is a 100% volunteer-run and donation-based local organization. Through the support of many generous donors, PEFS is able to provide food on a weekly basis to over 130 families, including deliveries to about 55 shut-ins.

Since COVID-19 hit in March, PEFS has been required to make some significant changes to its operations. To maintain social distance, the number of volunteers was reduced to a skeletal crew. The food shelf operations immediately transitioned from having clients select their own food to a “grab-and-go” method of food distribution. All volunteers and clients now wear masks, and clients stay in their cars while volunteers load their cars with pre-packaged food items. Contact is minimal.

Since March, the number of clients requesting assistance has increased significantly. PEFS currently serves 130-140 families each week, which is up from 100 families per week requiring assistance prior to the pandemic. The Penfield community has continued to be very generous; food donations to PEFS have remained steady throughout 2020. PEFS has also received monetary donations, which have enabled the organization to purchase additional food to meet the increased need.

This fall, PEFS will build an addition to its garage which will improve the staging of weekly food and holiday dinner distributions. This addition, which has been in the planning phase for several years, will greatly improve our ability to efficiently serve our clients. This will be beneficial in light of the increased number of Penfield families requesting food assistance due to the pandemic. The basic structure should be completed by the end of November. Once it is finished and it is safe to do so, PEFS plans to host an open house for all to see.

If you are family living in Penfield experiencing food insecurity, or if you would like to learn more about assisting PEFS through its Adopt-a-Shelf and Summer Food for Kids programs, hosting a food drive or making a donation, please visit the PEFS website at penfieldfoodshelf.com. Information is also available on the PEFS Facebook page.

Kathy Cummins chairs the board of the Penfield Ecumenical Food Shelf.

Volunteers Kyle and Dana help provide food to area families in need at the Penfield Ecumenical Food Shelf.
The Penfield Ecumenical Food Shelf is building an addition to its garage that will improve the staging of its food and holiday dinner distributions.