While the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County remains relatively low, the effects of the pandemic still echo across the nation as many businesses remain closed and more people reach out for assistance, particularly food.
Bulloch County’s positive coronavirus count rose to 40 Friday — far from the massive numbers some Georgia counties are reporting, but the mandated closings of numerous businesses has had its financial effect on area residents. During the first weeks of the pandemic, the demand for food assistance jumped drastically, according to reports from the Statesboro Food Bank and Christian Social Ministries.
However, these local food pantries now report the demand for food supplies has slowed over the past week.
When Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a statewide shutdown that ended Friday, many area residents found themselves in a state of uncertainty. Like others nationwide, some found themselves temporarily out of work, and the demand for food assistance mushroomed, said John Long, director of Christian Social Ministries.
Jodi Brannon, Statesboro Food Bank director, said she noticed a similar situation; after the initial reaction to the shutdown and loss of work, people seemed to stabilize. Long attributed the decrease in demand to stimulus checks and increases in food stamp allotments; Brannon said residents might be “tax rich,” spending income tax refunds on groceries. Either way, any surplus cash won’t last forever, she said.
The food supplies will meet demands for the summer, but donations will be needed sooner than usual.
“We have enough food for another two months,” Long said.
Usually, holiday donations, largely from TMT Farms’ annual drive-through Christmas display and food drive, last until September, but this year the demand has been higher.
To help with the unexpected need, TMT Farms is planning a midsummer event where a scaled-down version of their lights tour and food drive will not only replenish the CSM pantry but also give families a chance to get out and about during the social-distancing seclusion, said Roy Thompson of TMT Farms. Details have yet to be determined.
Brannon said the Statesboro Food Bank gets donations from individuals or monetary gifts from businesses that are used to purchase truckloads of nonperishable foods from Second Harvest. The food bank usually benefits from the annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive in May, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been postponed, she said. According to the NALC, the food drive will take place later this year, but a date has not been set.
Both food pantries report current sufficiency in available stock but express the need of continued donations and funding. The two groups work separately but together to provide Bulloch County residents with food in times of need. Sometimes they share sources, Long said.
Recently, Brannon obtained a massive truckload of fresh produce she shared with Long, providing a larger group of residents with fresh vegetables. He said he appreciates the partnership, and “community participation is phenomenal.”
Bulloch County’s COVID-19 count increased from 37 Thursday to 40 on Friday. The death count remains at two. Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn said the numbers are expected to rise as more testing is conducted.
As of Friday evening, statewide, there had been 168,367 tests administered, with 27,437 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Of those, 5,294 were hospitalized, with 1,225 ICU admissions and 1,159 COVID-related deaths, he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.