Food Cupboard Closed Till April 11

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On Tuesday, March 10th, St. Peter’s announced that we were instituting some guidelines for how we are in community with each other, as we see the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in our country, including Philadelphia.

One of these guidelines is that we will close our Food Cupboard for the next 4 weeks, starting this Saturday, March 14th. Our hope is that the Food Cupboard will re-open on Saturday, April 11th, though this will depend on what happens in the coming weeks.

Rev. Claire rightly framed all of our decisions in our call as Christians to care for each other, especially those who are vulnerable, and to do what we can for the good of all.

But, to be honest, this has been, by far, the most difficult decision. We asked ourselves, “Is closing the Food Cupboard really best for our neighbors dealing with food insecurity?” Perhaps, like us, you are asking this question, too. And so we would like to share the different moving pieces and considerations that guided our decision, which we believe is the most responsible decision at this point in time.

First and foremost, we were able to make this decision because of the deep relationships our Food Cupboard leaders and volunteers have with our neighbors who come to the Food Cupboard. They know these neighbors, and these neighbors know and trust them. From them, we learned:

Our neighbors who come to the food cupboard do have access to other sources of food, if they receive adequate notice. Many who come to the Food Cupboard use these groceries to supplement food they receive through other programs or are able to purchase on their own. They appreciate the fresh and healthy food we provide, especially since this kind of food can be more expensive. We feel confident that those who come to the Food Cupboard do have access to food that can sustain them for the next 4 weeks. This does not minimize the importance of this ministry nor downplay the injustice of food costs and access, but it does enable us to consider other aspects of their well-being, including two important ones: age and social distancing.

Those who come to the Food Cupboard are over the age of 60 and many travel significant distances on public transportation to come to St. Peter’s. So far, people over 60 and/or those with underlying health issues are most at-risk of having severe or lethal cases of COVID-19. Further, as the virus spreads, people – especially older people – are being encouraged to limit their time in public places, especially small, concentrated spaces and/or large gatherings. The people who travel to St. Peter’s for the Food Cupboard fall into both of these categories: those who are older and those who are in confined public spaces, like buses.

If we close the Food Cupboard, we need to communicate a clear timeline. Many of the people who come to the Food Cupboard do not have consistent access to email, Facebook, or other ways St. Peter’s is sharing ongoing updates. Originally, we considered closing the Food Cupboard on a week-to-week basis, but leaders in this ministry quickly pointed out this would be unfair to those who cannot check for updates each day and need to be able to make plans for themselves with as much notice as possible. This is why we have decided to close the Food Cupboard for 4 weeks – it is a clear timeline that leaves room for people to plan accordingly.

The mobile food cupboard will close this Saturday, and we are working with the other partners to determine next steps. Our mobile food cupboard provides food to the Olney neighborhood, based out of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church. Unlike the cupboard site at St. Peter’s, there are more families who come to our mobile site and they usually walk because they live closeby. As such, we are going to offer them a non-distribution drop-off option (in other words, we would load the van with a bunch of things from the basement and drop it off there, but not have a full set up of volunteer staff handing it out), if they feel that they need this, twice in the next 4 weeks. We will leave this decision up to St. Gabriel’s who, like our own volunteers at St. Peter’s, are the ones who will know what is most needed and will be best for their community. Under normal operations, the Food Cupboard has always linked onsite and offsite operations, i.e., if onsite is closed, so is offsite. But we want to respect our partners and their needs, so we feel strongly about providing this level of choice as a backup option.

We also want to share some important information for those who are vulnerable in our communities:

If you are concerned about cost or do not have a primary care physician or insurance, you can visit a City Health Center for treatment. Do not let fears about cost affect your actions if you are sick.

City Health Centers will help you regardless of your ability to pay. A full list of health centers is available online.

If you do not have access to the internet, call St. Peter’s office and we will do all we can to locate the center closest to you: 215-925-5968

Many health insurances are offering additional benefits through this time – including additional online/remote access, waiving copays, etc. If people are feeling stressed about copays or transportation, insurance may be able to support during this time.

Please hold all of those who lead, volunteer, and attend our Food Cupboard in your prayers. As with all other COVID-19 guidelines, reach out to Claire or Sarah with additional questions and concerns.

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