Food pantry workers and volunteers are now included among the people currently eligible to receive the COVID vaccine in New York. That’s welcome news to the operators of such facilities, as well as those who have continued to deliver hot meals to people confined to their homes even before the pandemic began.
This week, food pantry workers were added to the list of individuals who may receive a COVID vaccination under Phase 1B of the state's vaccination program. They join "public facing grocery store workers" in facilities including convenience stores and bodegas.
Catherine Shick, communications director for FeedMore Western New York, says her organization and several partners statewide had been petitioning the Cuomo Administration since January to include their personnel.
“We have over 400 home delivery volunteers on the road each and every day, making sure our homebound neighbors in need receive nutritious lunches and dinners," she said. "This will not only help protect FeedMore Western New York staff and volunteers, but it will help protect our most vulnerable clients who rely on the staff and volunteers to provide them with nutritious food and critical services.”
Shick says during the pandemic it's been an all-hands-on-deck operation, which she adds has met or exceeded CDC guidelines during the health crisis. One of the biggest adjustments for home deliveries was in limiting the interactions between volunteers and clients. For many meal recipients, that personal contact may be the only interaction they get in a given day.
“We have actually put together a program, due to the pandemic, where we're actually calling some of our most vulnerable neighbors. This is called our Companion Call Program, Shick said. "Because we had to suspend some of that in-person visiting of our home delivered meal neighbors and volunteers, we're having amazing trusted volunteers calling our most vulnerable clients to check in on them, making sure that they're okay and letting them know that they're not alone.”