Owasso food pantries are seeing an uptick in foot traffic amid the COVID-19 coronavirus.
With national chains experiencing a continued shortage in kitchen and household supplies, area residents are relying on local nonprofits to stay stocked up.
Owasso Community Resources Executive Director Randy Cowling said the number of families in need of food and toiletries has risen dramatically over the last several days.
“This week we’ve had the highest number of people coming in to get just our groceries that we provide, the three- to five-day supply of groceries, that we’ve had in a very, very long time,” Cowling said on Thursday. “We’ve seen people that haven’t been here in many, many months.”
Cowling and his team are serving 50 to 70 families per day in the wake of the pandemic, surpassing OCR’s regular numbers at this time during the year.
Owasson Wesley Watashe, for example, visited the nonprofit Thursday afternoon and walked away with several bags filled with canned goods and fresh produce.
“It means the world,” Watashe said. “This is helping me tremendously. This is a godsend to anyone in the area. You got to have food.”
Patrons like Watashe are able to receive needed help thanks to the continual influx of food and other supplies into the organization from various businesses and individuals as well as the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.
“We’re getting thousands of pounds of food every day from our pickups from the different grocers,” Cowling said, “and yesterday (Wednesday), we had a surprise donation of, it was probably over 1,000 pounds of fresh produce.
Neighbors in Need, another food pantry in Owasso, is also seeing an increase in walk-ins looking for needed supplies.
“Just Tuesday alone, we did 71 families in two hours,” said NIN Director Tiffany Bell, whose team serves around 50-60 families every week. “There were several new people that we’ve never seen before.”
Bell is continuing to bring on more volunteers, including students on break from school, to meet the ongoing demand.
Both OCR and NIN are taking precautions to mitigate the spread of COD-19 by sanitizing supplies, protecting their staff and screening clients upon their arrival. Additionally, Cowling is only allowing four to five patrons to enter the facility at a time.
OCR is currently in need of ramen, pasta, boxed potatoes, canned tuna/chicken and Chef Boyardee or chili, while NIN could use cereal, tuna, spaghetti/sauce and Hamburger Helper.
Families can pick up supplies at OCR, 109 N. Birch St., 1:30-6 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Friday as well as 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. Locals can receive goods in NIN’s drive-thru at 206 S. Main St., every Tuesday, 9:30-11:30 a.m.