March 25, 2020, By Howard Yune
With the shutdown of daily life triggered by the coronavirus outbreak has come a surge in demand at the Napa Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and other relief programs in recent days, organizers say.
Visits to the Napa Food Bank’s branches around the county have doubled or tripled since last week, while the number of meals delivered to local seniors has increased by half, according to Drene Johnson, executive director of Community Action of Napa Valley.
The burst in demand is taking place as increasing numbers of Napans are idled, furloughed or laid off in the wake of a California stay-at-home order, which took effect Friday and has shut down swaths of the valley’s restaurant, hotel, wine and hospitality industries.
“This is a cumulative build-up of people who need services,” Johnson said Tuesday. “It started slow at the beginning of (last) week and it’s gained momentum. The shock is setting in; people are asking, ‘What do we do?’ … The need is getting more and more, and people are panicking more and more.”
The food bank’s Napa outlet on Yajome Street, which normally provides groceries to 30 to 40 households daily, has served about 150 families a day this week, and visits to the American Canyon branch more than doubled from 36 to 85 from Monday to Tuesday, she said.
Meals on Wheels requests in the county also are increasing during the stay-home directive, which aims to limit the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with pre-existing medical problems. Locally, the program provided 3,430 meals last week compared to the typical number of about 2,300, and Johnson reported a jump from about 460 to more than 520 clients as of Monday.
To take on the surge in demand, CANV is taking on more volunteers, including 20 employees of Hall Wines, Johnson said. The additional helpers will work at various tasks at the food bank, Meals on Wheels and a phone bank that places welfare-check calls to older CANV clients every two days. Five members of the National Guard also were expected to join the Napa effort on Wednesday, both to box groceries and serve as delivery drivers, according to Johnson.
Groceries are being boxed and distributed on a drive-through basis at the Napa Food Bank’s pantries in Napa, American Canyon, Calistoga, St. Helena, Angwin, Pope Valley and Lake Berryessa.
Johnson called the increased demand for food relief sustainable in the near term, because of promised funding from the Napa Valley Community Foundation, along with private contributions and expected federal and state reimbursements.
Cash donations for CANV food relief programs can be made at the organization’s website, canv.org, or by mail to Community Action of Napa Valley, 2521 Old Sonoma Road, Napa, 94558. Cash is preferred to in-kind contributions because of the lower prices available at cooperatives and groups that sell to food pantry programs, according to Johnson.
For more information
Information about the Napa Food Bank and Meals on Wheels programs is available at the Community Action of Napa Valley (CANV) website at canv.org/food-nutrition/