Emmaus Staff Member Speaks on Food Insecurity During Covid-19
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“This pandemic has highlighted for the country an ugly truth of our society: many families and individuals within our own communities do not have financial security to meet an emergency situation,” said Breanna Mekuly, Public Relations Assistant for Emmaus Ministries, as she spoke to thirty-five virtual attendees during Erie Community Foundation’s Mid-Week Meetup.

Led by Erie Community Foundation’s Executive Director, Mike Batchelor, and Vice President for Philanthropic Services, Susannah Weis Frigon, and moderated by Program Officer, Rachel Cacchione, the Mid-Week Meetup offered an online session titled, "Food Insecurity in the Times of Covid-19: A View from the Front Lines” on June 24th. Participants in the conversation included Breanna Mekuly, as well as Alex Whipple, Public Health Educator for the Erie County Department of Health and Karen Seggi, Director of Second Harvest Food Bank of NWPA.

Focusing on food insecurity during a time of unprecedented uncertainty worldwide, Breanna explained to attendees how the pandemic has affected Emmaus Ministries. “Food insecurity in Erie is nothing new,” she said. “In normal times, about 600 households supplement their weekly meals with Emmaus’ food pantry and about 175 individuals eat daily at the soup kitchen. During this pandemic we have noticed that many of our regular guests at both the food pantry and soup kitchen have stayed away for fear of getting sick, lack of transportation, or because the governmental assistance was enough to support them during this time.”

With this new reality Emmaus Ministries continues to serve its guests who use the services it provides while discussing some of the issues brought on by the pandemic: How do we communicate with our guests if there is no information to reach them? What are our guests eating? Are they able to access and afford healthy food? Are they prioritizing safety from the virus over eating enough? And if so, what might be our role in reaching out to support those in need with accessibility or health-related struggles?

These months of adjusting practices and accommodating for new realities have presented challenges to organizations whose focus is feeding the city’s most vulnerable population. But with increased awareness and information like that raised in the Mid-Week Meetup, the organizations who serve those in greatest need, are better able to adapt to meet those needs during these ever-changing times.