Latest Update from Americus Harvest of Hope Food Pantry
From Staff Reports
AMERICUS – On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization declared (Coronavirus) COVID-19 as a pandemic and encouraged all countries to take urgent and aggressive action. On Friday, March 13, President Trump declared a National Health Emergency. Then on Saturday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared the State of Georgia a Public Health State of Emergency.
There was an earlier message from Governor Kemp that indicated that all faith-based ministries should close for at least two weeks and then re-assess the situation. Since Harvest of Hope Food Pantry is a faith-based ministry, HHFP’s Board of Directors voted to close for two weeks and then re-assess the problem.
On Saturday, March 21, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners and Sumter County Emergency Management Director Nigel Poole issued a county wide mandatory curfew.
“We are facing a difficult time at the moment in our country because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Because this virus is deadly, the measures installed to seek to control the spread of this virus causes difficulties for all of us, including Harvest of Hope Food Pantry,” said HHFP Executive Director Sonny Pinckard. “CDC guidelines regarding “social distancing” (not coming within 6 feet of each other) and the rule that no more than 10 people can assemble in one place, does not give us enough volunteers to set up for or process food for our clients. Because of these restrictions, Harvest of Hope Food Pantry has ceased operations until the restrictions have been removed.”
Pinckard went on to say that HHFP has reviewed several different processes for delivering food, but has not been able to find one that they think will work.
“There is another factor that we must take into consideration. Most of the food we give out to our clients is USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) foods and can only be given to individuals who qualify by USDA guidelines,” said Pinckard. “USDA qualifications are based on the total number of people who live in the household AND the total amount of income for that household. Also, these clients MUST live in Sumter County and can only receive food once per 28 days. Only one person per household can pick up food for the household.”
Pinckard has stated that he personally sought guidance from Second Harvest of South Georgia about these qualifications and was told that the government will not waive the income requirements (total people and total income) at this time.
“We are concerned about getting food to our clients as quickly as possible,” said Pinckard. “However, we have been closed for two weeks and we have had only one individual who called and said they needed food, but we are also concerned that our workers be protected as well as our clients. Many of our volunteers, as well as our clients, are in the “at risk” age category. We are trying to find a way to allow our clients to receive food, but with the rules that we must now comply with to prevent the spread of this virus that has proven to be so deadly, we have been unable to do so.”
Pinckard went on to say that HHFP plans to open its doors as soon as possible and will notify its clients as soon as they are able to reopen.
“Pray for the end of this virus. Pray for all who work at Harvest of Hope Food Pantry even though they are not working right now,” said Pinckard. “And pray for our clients. Pray that this difficult time will come to an end and life can get back to normal as quickly as possible.”