An Update from our Executive Director Regarding COVID-19: Part 2

Dear Friends,

We are extremely grateful that we can continue to do our work in these uncertain times. It seems so obvious that food production and food access work would be deemed “essential.” But how often have we taken it for granted?

For many of us this recent panic over empty grocery store shelves and shuttered farmers markets is a tiny glimpse of what thousands in our city have dealt with everyday for years… not knowing if they can access or afford nutritious healthy food. And as many of us turn to online grocery shopping, thousands who participate in SNAP (formerly the food stamp program) aren’t so lucky, as SNAP can not be used for online purchases.

It is an understatement to say that things are rapidly shifting. But we wanted to give you all a few quick updates on where our heads, hearts, and hands are as of today:

Our Farms:
If you have ever volunteered with us, then you know firsthand that volunteers are the engine behind our farming operation. Because of cancellations and safety restrictions, we are anticipating a reduction of 12,000 volunteer hours over the next three months. Some of that is being made up by increases in our Lead Volunteer program and by shifting our program and admin staff to more regular farm work. But this is all happening at a critical time for the farm when 35,000 spring plants are set to go in the ground in the next 4 weeks. We will continue to use best practices and consult experts about how and when to safely increase the use of volunteers. But in the meantime, we will need to hire more seasonal staff.

Our Programs:
We have streamlined our winter distribution efforts and are carefully assessing where we might need to shift our food access efforts over the next three months. We want to be prepared to meet the growing need for our services while complying with all safety regulations. This means listening carefully to our community partners and program participants to ensure we are getting the right food, to the right place, in the right way. And it means we are working closely with state officials to ensure that our mobile market and other distribution efforts are able and ready to operate under any restrictions that may be put in place.

Our Finances:
Our top financial priority is to secure the $25,000 needed to hire 4 additional temporary farm staff to fill gaps over the next 2-3 months. A request to meet this need is currently being considered by a local foundation. Beyond that our focus is on securing funding to ensure we can respond to whatever the unpredictable and unprecedented need looks like this spring and summer. We know that we may need to distribute food in more costly ways to ensure the most vulnerable still have access.

It is too early to know how much the need may increase or how many of our traditional funding streams may dry up in the coming weeks. As we know more, we will share more. But if you are in a position to, please consider making an investment in this work. And know that your gift today means we can respond to the needs of our community tomorrow.

If you have questions about our work, our safety measures, or our financial needs please don’t hesitate to email me at dominic@shalomfarms.org or call me on my cellphone at (336) 263-3654.

With Gratitude,
Dominic Barrett
Executive Director