When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Texas in March 2020, business as usual was no longer an option for the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Thousands of North Texans rely on the food bank on any normal day but the perfect storm of rising unemployment and stay-at-home orders put the NTFB in a really tricky spot. They needed to feed more people but a decline in volunteers jeopardized the organization’s mission.
Ensuring staff and volunteer safety in the midst of a viral pandemic was also top of mind for the food bank. As Anna Kurian, Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications for NTFB explains, “When this really started taking hold here in North Texas, we knew we were going to have to have some protocols in place to keep the folks that were coming through our building safe.”
To get food to the Texans who needed it, the NTFB knew it had to act quickly
According to Kurian, the rise in demand for NTFB services and decline in volunteers required an immediate shift in every aspect of the food bank’s business. “We say we pivoted on a dime to make sure we were be able to meet that need.”
With companies and schools closed due to the lockdown—and reluctant to allow their students and employees to volunteer—the NTFB made several critical moves to keep healthy food and meals moving through its warehouse in Plano and into neighborhoods in need.
One important step was to mobilize the NTFB’s mobile pantry distributions, where they send a truck filled with food into areas of high need. Many of these neighborhoods don’t have a partner agency in the region providing food—especially healthy food like produce—to those who need it.
Between March 20 and June 30, 2020 more than 140 of those distributions and 246,000 people were served through the mobile pantry effort alone. Learn more about the NTFB’s mission and how you can help in the video below.
NTFB’s innovative Get Shift Done fund boosts the volunteer pool, while providing pay to folks who lost their jobs
“The Get Shift Done fund is actually paying people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic to come and volunteer at the food bank as well as other nonprofit partners. It’s actually something that’s been expanded to other locations nationwide, and it started right here at the North Texas Food Bank. We’re very proud of that,” Kurian says.
After about a month into the Get Shift Done initiative, the organization realized COVID-19—and the high demand for NTFB services—wasn’t going away any time soon. That’s when Kurian says they called for reinforcements.
As she explains, “We called the Texas National Guard, and more than 280 guardsmen came to help us in the warehouse as well as at our mobile pantry distributions. Those guys are very efficient but actually the Get Shift Done people are just as efficient. And they’ve come back to help us here. We’re just really happy that not only are they helping us stock the shelves but they’re receiving funds that will help them feed their families. It’s really a win-win.”
Keeping hundreds of staff and volunteers safe during the pandemic was a top priority for NTFB
The NTFB’s Plano Perot Family campus is the heart of the organization’s massive operation, which serves 13 North Texas counties, moves over one million pounds of food every week and provides access to 97 million meals each year. With hundreds of people moving through the facility every day, the NTFB knew it had to be proactive about safety protocols from day one.
“One of the first things that was implemented was the temperature checks and the social distancing. We’ve always encouraged people to practice good hygiene and wash their hands, now it’s a more concerted effort to ensure that happens,” Kurian says.
TTG’s donation of COVID-19 signage, hand sanitizer stations and more helps support NTFB’s safety protocols
Along with mandating masks, social distancing and educational signage have become essential for organizations that need or want to stay open during the pandemic. According to Kurian, “We’re a critical organization, and an essential organization, so we have been allowed to stay open throughout this time. But In order to maintain that safety we need to make sure people follow those protocols.”
Knowing how vital the NTFB is to North Texas—not to mention the health of its staff and volunteers—The Trade Group (TTG) was eager to support the organization’s work, especially during a time of such dire need. One way TTG knew it could help was by donating safety and social distancing signage, along with PPEs and hand sanitizer kiosks.
TTG Senior Design Consultant Robin Dean worked with the NTFB team to identify needs and create a customized solution for the Plano facility’s diverse and varied workspaces and common areas (warehouse, production line, office, kitchen and conference room workspaces, as well as restrooms and elevators).
The solution ultimately included a variety of safety, awareness and social distancing signage, including banners, banner stands, floor decals and window and mirror clings. TTG also donated a custom 15-foot clear, acrylic, protective reception shield to provide separation between the receptionist and guests. Other deliverables included hand sanitizer stations with custom graphics and PPE face shields.
According to Dean, “We’re honored to be able to donate these safety solutions to the North Texas Food Bank, an organization that feeds thousands of North Texans every day. We also hope that the signage and sanitizer stations will help bring peace of mind to the hundreds of employees and volunteers continuing to work hard to feed our communities during the pandemic.”
‘North Texans are counting on us’
While the pandemic continued to rage on with no end in sight, the staff and volunteers at the NTFB were poised and prepared to carry on in the summer of 2020 and beyond.
Says Kurian, “What we know about the future is that nothing is certain but the one thing that has to be certain is the food bank staying in place to provide that food for the people who need it. At the end of the day, we need to be here to provide the food to those partner agencies and mobile pantry locations. North Texans are counting on us, and we take our jobs very seriously.”
To learn more about the North Texas Food Bank and how you can support its mission, visit www.ntfb.org. You can learn more about The Trade Group’s COVID-19 safety solutions here.
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