Bracing for the economic impact of COVID-19

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Sandra Hartman expects there will be a lot more people visiting the Petrolia Food Bank in the next few weeks.
The manager says it won’t take long for people in the service industry – who have been laid off as businesses close to try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus – to run out of cash. Then, she says, they’ll need some help.
“Right now, what I’m hearing from the people I know, is we’re all getting by. But the longer this goes on, the more people will be in need.
“Things are getting harder because more things are closing and people are being told to self isolate.”
When the food bank opened March 16, there were 30 adults in need with 15 kids to support.
Hartman expects April may be the most difficult month. The federal assistance programs are expected to reach Canadians in May.
And she says it won’t be easy for those workers to ask for help.
“Even with so many people in our community not working, it is going to be hard enough to walk through that door.”
Increased traffic is only one of the affects of the flu-like virus in the community. Hartman, like many others, is worried about what she will be able to get to stock the shelves.
“It’s difficult getting product right now,” she says. “People are stockpiling items. I don’t think people know what affect that has on others including food banks.”
Hartman says recently she went out to get some things for the food bank and could only find half of what she needed.
And she is also conscious of buying up large amounts of items. “I don’t want to be stockpiling either.”
The food bank has changed the way it does things during the pandemic. All the volunteers are wearing gloves. Families are being asked to send just one person to the office. Anyone with any symptoms won’t be let in.
Hartman says families are being given a food box but for now, won’t be able to come in and make their own food selections.
Even though the food bank is preparing boxes for its clients, Hartman says any donations are welcome right now.
“We will need anything and everything. Sooner or later, it’s going to be used,” she says
Any food donations that are coming in the door are going into ‘quarantine’ for a week to ensure if the virus was on the packaging, it would have died.
Hartman says right now, volunteers are serving everyone they can but it isn’t clear whether the food bank will be able to deliver to homes if people are sick and in need of support.
“We will help as much as we can with food because that’s a stressor.”