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Wendi Andrews stands in front of shelves of food at the Food Bank of Greenwood County in this February 2018 photo.

At the Food Bank of Greenwood, Director Wendi Andrews is looking to the future of providing safe, ongoing services for people who experience food insecurity.

The food bank closed for two weeks in April, opening back up April 14 after devising new safety measures and plans for providing food to people through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Upon reopening, the staff had to cut back on programs.

“For those three months, we didn’t do our Sowing Seeds program,” Andrews said, “which allows families who can invest a little to receive food essentials.”

Sowing Seeds and the pantry’s mobile food distribution sites were shut down. The organization hasn’t operated a mobile site since January, she said. They were only able to operate the emergency food pantry, and in the meantime, they moved resources like canned goods that are usually reserved for those programs over to the main food pantry.

Last week, however, Andrews made the decision to start Sowing Seeds again, effective Monday. It’s part of a strategy to take advantage of what’s normally a slow season for the food bank and stock up so that program can aid people down the line.

“I feel like people have stocked up a lot on the canned goods, and they don’t need them as much now, but they’re going to need them in a few months,” she said. “We are an emergency food source for so many people in the county, so we do what we have to do.”

Andrews said during summer months the food bank sees fewer clients, as well as fewer donations. It’s the perfect time to stock up for what she expects will be more stressful months ahead for people.

“When we opened back up, we saw probably twice as many people as usual,” she said. “People had just started to lose their jobs, or they got sick, or they were in quarantine or couldn’t work. ... When things come like this, the immediate response is reactive. But as we’re planning and utilizing funds, it has to be for a more permanent solution.”

That’s why when the food bank closed earlier this year, Andrews had a permanent shield put up where the intake manager interacts with people coming in for help. That boundary, Andrews said, protects the manager and the public.

“I didn’t want a temporary fix, because this virus is a way of waking us up to other communicable diseases that we can come in contact with every day,” she said.

They worked on safe storage, food transport and procedures to safely do their work. As the food bank’s staff look toward the future, Andrews said she’s still grateful for the backbone of the operation: The outpouring of love from the community in the form of donations.

“A lot of people donated their entire stimulus check to us — just signed it over to us,” she said. “That kept us going and allowed us to plan and have the funds available.”

Feeding the hungryWhile many agencies and groups are working to address food insecurity in Greenwood, St. Paul AME church is offering a helping hand to families in the Cokesbury area.

Wanda Moore, site food manager for the church’s summer feeding program, said when the church helps Greenwood County School District 50 distribute meals in the area, they also give out canned goods they’ve received as donations.

Food is distributed from 9-9:45 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays through the end of July, at 4222 Cokesbury Road, Hodges. The food is intended for families with children younger than 18.

Moore said when they started, they were giving food to about 65 people. Since then, it’s grown to providing food for more than 100 families with children. She said volunteers are finding ways to deliver meals to people who are stuck at home for various reasons, and the volunteers have adapted to work through social distancing guidelines.

Anyone who wants to donate or volunteer can contact Moore at 864-554-5702, or the program’s director, Margaret Wilson, at 864-992-0707.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.