The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unique challenges to our Daily Bread team and member agency network. One particular challenge has been to adapt our service models in order to provide high quality service to our communities while reducing physical contact as much as possible. This has meant that the ability to register people using the traditional model of registration happening onsite at the food bank was no longer possible.
We have been able to rise to the challenge thanks to our Information and Referrals (I&R) team of volunteers who stepped up when we needed them most.
We launched our new Information and Referrals phone line, so anyone, anywhere in the city can call and get a friendly voice on the other side of the phone, to help them through the process, answer any questions they may have, and make referrals to other resources if available.
Part of our intake procedure is to ask people about their income and sources of income, not to determine their eligibility for food, but to reduce barriers to food security by connecting them to benefits they are eligible for but didn’t know about.
“We are not only connecting people to food banks in a low barrier way, we are connecting them to benefits that could supplement their income, meaning they wouldn’t be experiencing food insecurity. We are increasing food access through different mechanisms”
While there are currently significant limitations to referrals because services have had to shut down, we are getting creative about how we can best support people. For our I&R team, this means staying up to date with 211, constantly communicating with our partners and agencies, and having a good understanding of what’s going on in the community to be able to help people get the things they need.
However, the most important thing for our I&R team is ensuring that when they answer the phone people feel at ease.
“When people call us, it is a hard moment for them. Tons of people that have never had to use the food bank, are using it now. We just want the experience when they a call us to be supportive and caring and that they are put at ease right away.”
While things are always changing, and our team is constantly adapting to improve our services, one thing remains the same; the passion and dedication to eliminating barriers to everyone’s right to food.