In March and April, North Gwinnett Cooperative distributed more food than in all of 2019, according to Executive Director Kim Phillips. While the co-op gave out 172,000 pounds of food in 2019, an astonishing 181,000 pounds was provided in just two months last spring.
Prior to COVID-19, the nonprofit served an average of 21 families per day. On March 30, due to the pandemic, they served 250 families, according to Phillips.
“We saw a lot of anxiety and fear, a lot of that deer-in-the-headlights look and confusion from those who had never been to a food bank and were asking for help for the first time,” she recalls, noting that 43% of those served at the onset of the crisis were new clients. “We had families where Mom and Dad both worked and, all of a sudden, neither was working. We saw families who had savings that ran out while they waited on unemployment payments.”
A nonprofit that routinely provides food, medicine and other necessities to those in need, North Gwinnett Co-op focused on food and medication at the onset of the pandemic. With a $20,000 grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation, they were able to meet the growing need.
“Like everybody else, we had to adapt quickly,” says Phillips. “In normal times, people would come to our office, be seen by an intake coordinator, we’d give them a check and they would go get their medicine. Last spring, we called all of our senior clients and said, ‘Please don’t come here. We’ll get your medication and bring it to you.’”
Phillips witnessed the crisis leading to an increase in need for blood pressure and other medications.
“People were under so much stress,” she says, recalling one client whose medicine costs $800 a month. “She could only afford $200 a month, so until her insurance company would approve it, we paid the difference.”
Every other week, the co-op delivered food and medication to the doorsteps of their clients so that older residents didn’t have to leave their homes.
“That helped us keep our seniors safe,” says Phillips. “We are blessed in Gwinnett that so many nonprofits, like the Jackson EMC Foundation, partner with us to get the job done.”
As the cost of living due to health concerns goes up for seniors, their benefits do not.
“A lot of our seniors make the decision whether they eat or take their medicine,” Phillips concludes. “We want them to not have to make that decision but get both. The Jackson EMC Foundation grant enabled us to provide food during the crisis and to serve 50 additional families with the prescription medication they need.”