Drive-Thru Food Pantry Serves 200-Plus Local Families

Drive-Thru Food Pantry Serves 200-Plus Local Families
Vehicles are shown lined up at last week’s drive-thru food pantry on Flower Street in Berlin. Submitted Photo

BERLIN – Members of a local nonprofit haven’t let the COVID-19 outbreak stop them from helping those in need.

In an effort to continue to provide meals for the community amid current social distancing requirements, the Stevenson United Methodist Church’s Spirit Kitchen is now operating a drive-thru food pantry in conjunction with Worcester Youth and Family and Buckingham Presbyterian Church. Last week the pantry distributed more than 10,000 pounds of food to more than 200 families.

“We were happy to be able to do it,” said Vicky Nock, a member of Stevenson United Methodist Church who helped create the Spirit Kitchen.

For nearly a decade, the Spirit Kitchen has offered members of the community a free hot meal every Wednesday. Nock said volunteers didn’t know what to do when churches were ordered to close to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Working with the Maryland Food Bank and partner groups, Nock and her fellow volunteers researched health guidelines and came up with the concept of a drive-thru food pantry. Volunteers, who wear masks and gloves, are able to distribute food without coming into close contact with anyone.

“They just drive up and pop their trunk,” Nock said. “We don’t want any close interaction.”

Though the first drive-thru event wasn’t quite as organized as Nock planned, those in need were able to get bags of food. By the second event, held April 8, Spirit Kitchen volunteers had a routine down and were able to distribute 10,660 pounds of food in two hours. Luckily Berlin police were able to help organize the array of vehicles entering and exiting the pantry, which operated in the driveway in front of the Head Start building on Flower Street.

“The traffic, there was no end to the cars,” Nock said.

Thanks to the Spirit Kitchen’s partnership with the Maryland Food Bank, those in need were able to get meat, bread, vegetables and canned goods.

“We try to think about what can be made with what we have,” Nock said.

The Spirit Kitchen was even able to provide some toilet paper to attendees.

“That’s the number one asked for item in shelters and such,” she said. “They were really happy to have that.”

Nock said the food leftover after the event was given to needy families in the area. Canned goods were added to the blessing box outside Buckingham Presbyterian Church.

Nock said the next drive-thru food pantry was scheduled for April 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. She advises anyone who plans to attend to have cleared out their trunk in advance so volunteers can easily load the food.

She says the Spirit Kitchen will continue to host events every two weeks as long as they have the volunteers and funding needed to do so.

“I feel it’s the right thing,” she said. “The lord wants us to do it.”

She said she was thankful for the group’s volunteers who’d stepped up to ensure those in need could continue to receive food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s such a huge undertaking to do it outside,” she said.

Though the Spirit Kitchen operates at Stevenson United Methodist Church, the food served is purchased through donations and grants. Donations can be sent to Spirit Kitchen, c/o Stevenson United Methodist Church, 123 N. Main St., Berlin, Md. 21811.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.