Gov. Ricketts, food bank leaders discuss efforts to enhance food security in Nebraska

Nebraska News

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at a press briefing in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Nebraska approved an $83.6 million emergency relief package Wednesday to help public health officials respond to new coronavirus as the number of cases continued to rise and Gov. Pete Ricketts expanded the list of counties where restaurants and bars will be forced to close their dining areas. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – Governor Pete Ricketts held his daily COVID-19 news conference Monday to provide an update on Nebraska’s response to the virus.

Watch a replay of the conference above or here.

On Monday afternoon, he urged Nebraskans to “Stay Home and Stay Healthy” during his daily briefing on the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also reviewed the State’s revisions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which has made it easier for people living in Nebraska who are in need to access food.

Scott Young, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Lincoln, and Leia Noel, President of Foodnet in Lincoln, joined Gov. Ricketts in Monday’s news conference.

Young and Noel discussed their organizations’ efforts to provide food security to Nebraskans that are affected by the COVID-19 Emergency.

Below is the summary of what Noel, Gov. Ricketts, and Young talked about.

Gov. Ricketts: 21 Days to Keep Nebraska Healthy

  • The state on Day 4 of the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” campaign.
  • Reminds people of our Six Rules to Keep Nebraska Healthy.
    • Stay home. No non-essential errands and no social gatherings. Respect the ten-person limit.
    • Socially distance your work. Work from home or use the six-foot rule as much as possible in the workplace.
    • Shop alone and only shop once a week. Do not take the family with you.
    • Help kids follow social distancing. Play at home. No group sports. No playgrounds.
    • Help seniors stay at home by shopping for them. Do not visit long-term care facilities.
    • Exercise daily at home or with an appropriately socially-distanced activity.

Gov. Ricketts: Food Security

  • Nebraska is the Beef State and help feed the world.
  • During this time, the state is taking steps to make sure that families have continued access to food.
  • Last week, they announced changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Among other things…
    • Extended recertification periods by six months during the months of April and May. 
    • Providing emergency allotments to SNAP recipients, up to the amount of maximum allotment per household, in April and May.
    • Eased certain requirements for eligibility.
  • SNAP is just a part of how families in need access food. 
  • Food banks also play an important role in serving vulnerable communities. 
  • At this time, our food banks need the generosity and support of Nebraskans more than ever.
  • Make sure that families can continue to access the food they need during this pandemic.
  • Gov. Ricketts urged Nebraskans to step up and help their local food bank.

Scott Young: Food Bank of Lincoln

  • The Food Bank of Lincoln serves every county in the state of Nebraska.
  • Normally, half of their distribution points are schools. To continue to serve the people of Nebraska, they’re adapting their operations in keeping with health guidelines.
  • During the pandemic, their network—Feeding America—anticipates a 45% increase in food-insecure people during the next six months.
  • In Nebraska, there are 223,000 food-insecure people. A 45% increase would represent roughly 100,000 more people struggling with hunger.
  • Seeing an increased need in both rural and urban communities.
  • In Grand Island last weekend, Food Bank for the Heartland had over 1,000 cars show up to its drive-thru distribution.
  • Seen great spikes in the rural settings where they pass out pre-packed bags. At these sites, they use low-contact or no-contact methods to protect their clients and staff from infection.
  • One of their challenges currently is that resources are going down as the need is going up.
  • Grocery stores, where food banks typically pick up products, are making use of everything they have to meet demand.
  • The food we order now may take four to six weeks to reach our food bank.
  • They have concerns currently, and in the months ahead, about how the pandemic may impact food security in Nebraska.
  • The best way to help is to make a donation at lincolnfoodbank.org or foodbankheartland.org. Nebraskans can also find out where food will be distributed by visiting these websites.
  • Food banks are going to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of food in the next 60-90 days to keep up with this increased need.
  • A lot of the people who’ve lost employment will be in need of food bank provisions. They also thank everyone who is donating to help them.

Leia Noel: Foodnet

  • Foodnet operates in Lincoln and the surrounding communities.
  • They receive food from grocery stores and other businesses, and their volunteers distribute it to those in need.
  • During a normal week, they pick up provisions at nearly 100 locations and serve 5,000 to 6,000 people.
  • In early March, they adjusted their operations to comply with health guidance from the Governor, our mayor, and the local health department.
  • They’ve closed some of their usual locations at the request of our host sites.
  • They also saw a reduction in our retired volunteer base, as they’re especially vulnerable to the virus. Foodnet fully supported their decision to stay home and stay safe.
  • They’ve adjusted to having fewer sites and a smaller number of volunteers.
  • They currently have sites open every day except Wednesday.
  • On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there are three sites open. This is helpful to the community since many food banks are not as accessible on the weekend.
  • They’ve also switched to drive-thru locations to limit person-to-person contact.
  • A few sites still allow clients to come into their facilities to pick up food. These locations are strictly following COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
  • They expect to serve more people in the weeks ahead as families experience job loss and food supplies need to be restocked.
  • Nebraskans can help by picking up and delivering food to neighbors, family, or friends who are homebound and in need.
  • People in the state can also volunteer to distribute food.  Foodnet has volunteer openings at some locations.
  • Foodnet’s website has contact information and details about distribution sites.
  • They also thank to grocery stores and businesses for donating so that they can serve Nebraskans in need.

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