How To Help During The Coronavirus

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Soup Kitchen Volunteers

Hey New Havenites,

I know everything about COVID-19 has been scary. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now and I know you all have questions.

“How long is this going to last?”

“Why won’t my company let me work from home yet?”

“When can I go enjoy New Haven now that the Yalies are gone for a while?”

Unfortunately, I don’t have THOSE answers, but I do have answers to another question I’ve been hearing a lot lately:

“How can I help?”

What can I do? How can I help? What are we drinking?
This is the kind of energy we need right now.

There are a LOT of people who need help right now. A lot of families rely on the public school system to help feed their kids. Older populations and folks with diabetes are especially at risk if they contract the new coronavirus. There are likely other groups that I’m missing here, but my point is that a lot of people need help.

FORTUNATELY, there are a lot of groups in the greater New Haven area that are stepping up to the plate, and they really truly need your support right now.

Meals For Children

When this really started getting crazy and school started closing, my first thought was about the children who rely on the school system for food.

  1. I reached out to several folks to see if anyone knew of any groups working to solve that problem. Turns out, the schools were!

The folks at the New Haven Public Schools Food Service Department are doing “Grab and Go” breakfast and lunch meals at 37 schools around the city every weekday.

Click here for a lot more details on that.

  1. If you’re not in New Haven, I’d recommend Googling “YOUR TOWN NAME public school grab and go”. I’ve been hearing of a lot of other towns doing something similar.
When kids get fed, we all win.
When kids get fed, we all win.

Food and Diapers

1.) Next up, the Connecticut Food Bank, which has a network of food retailers, growers, donors, and volunteers to source food and supplies throughout six of CT’s counties. I just got an email from them saying that 144,000 people visit their partners and programs every month for food. And that’s BEFORE the coronavirus causes more people to become food insecure.

They’re doing INCREDIBLE work and are always in need of help. Beyond monetary donations (they have the purchasing power of like $10 for every $1 you donate) there are a ton of ways to help:

  • If you have the ability to (businesses, farms, etc) you can donate food and household supplies.
  • You can volunteer your time to help sort in a warehouse, handle some office tasks, or at various other sites around the state.
  • You’re ordering stuff on Amazon anyway, so set your Amazon Smile charity to “Connecticut Food Bank” so they get a 0.5% cut of your purchases.

Here’s a link to various other ways you can help the Connecticut Food Bank.

  1. Next, The Diaper Bank of Connecticut. They distribute free diapers through a lot of channels in the state for folks who need them, much like the CT Food Bank provides food.

One of my friends at FISH (more on them later) mentioned that the Diaper Bank of CT has a real shortage of diapers right now. I hear that stores are selling out, but there’s likely a way to order diapers for them.

Their homepage has links to donate, volunteer, and other ways to help out.

  1. Let’s not forget about soup kitchens!

Googling “New Haven soup kitchens” brought up a lot of results. It seems like many are moving their operations either outside or have a “grab and go” situation.

"Grab and go" is the new "take your jacket off."
“Grab and go” is the new “take your jacket off.”

There are a ton and while all of them need help (whether it be through donations or volunteering) I’m including a list of a few below:

Food for the Homebound

New Haven, like most places, has populations of folks that are homebound. That might mean elderly people who can’t get around as easily anymore or folks with autoimmune diseases that can’t go out in public during a pandemic. Regardless of the reason, we have some groups in town that help get food to their doors.

  1. The first one here is FISH (Food In Service to the Homebound) of Greater New Haven. I had brunch with one of the volunteer organizers over there a couple of weeks ago and heard a lot about how they operate. Much like it sounds, they work with groups like the Connecticut Food Bank to source and deliver food to the doorsteps of just shy of 1,000 people.

A good chunk of their clientele is diabetic and since they especially can’t go and buy groceries for themselves right now, it’s very important that they get groceries dropped off for them.

Some folks NEED to stay home and services like FISH can be life savers.
Some folks NEED to stay home and services like FISH can be life savers.

However, due to the coronavirus, a lot of their volunteers aren’t showing up. If anyone has any time to donate they need help in a few different areas sorting groceries in the pantry and making deliveries. If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, this is a great lower-risk way to do it.

Click here to volunteer at FISH.

  1. One of the groups helping to fill in for FISH’s delivery service is Haven’s Harvest. They’re doing some really rad stuff with recovered food and I’ve been following them since they were a Collab venture in 2018.

They redirect leftover food from places like restaurants, grocery stores, and other food-related businesses to places like community agencies, elderly living facilities, and schools. Sometimes it’s fresh fruit. Sometimes it’s full sheet pans of prepared meals. Every time it’s helpful and appreciated.

Seriously, though. These folks move a LOT of food.
Seriously, though. These folks move a LOT of food.

It’s an organization run by a local family who moved literally 490 tons of food in 2018 alone. They’ve only been growing since then and have a grant fund set up so that any amount donated to them is matched dollar-for-dollar. Please consider helping them out by either donating or volunteering.

Click here for more information on Haven’s Harvest.

  1. The last food delivery shoutout is Meals On Wheels. We all know Meals On Wheels (MOW). They help deliver meals to senior citizens around the country – and sometimes multiple meals a day. For a lot of people, this is some of the only face-to-face interaction they get.

Normally, you bring food to share and spend some time hanging out with whoever you brought food for. However, seeing as how senior citizens are one of the most at-risk groups to COVID-19, they have a whole page full of ways that you can help them during the pandemic.

Every individual MOW provider has different needs at the moment, so 2/3 down the page of the following link there’s a button to find your local provider. Definitely reach out and see if there’s anything you can do to help out. I’m sure they’d be grateful to have some folks just help drop off the food on folks’ doorsteps. Always fun to have a conversation through a screen door!

Help Seniors Fight Coronavirus COVID-19. Donate Now. | Meals on Wheels

Other Resources

1.) Lastly, a Reddit user named NaughtyNinjaNeens put together a Google Doc of various resources, including information on unemployment benefits, mental health resources, and various other things. It should be open to edit, so please add whatever else you’re aware of.

NHV Love in the Time of Coronavirus – Google Docs

We can accomplish incredible things through crowdsourcing.
We can accomplish incredible things through crowdsourcing.

As several of us are working from home and spending less money on lunch than we usually do, I hope you’ll join me in paying those savings. These groups are doing some truly incredible work helping those who can’t help themselves and every dollar helps.

Remember that this pandemic is global and will require a truly unprecedented effort to get us to the other side. Many hands make light work.

John Green said it best the other day:

“The only way out is through, and the only way through is together.”

In that vein, I set up a website to catalog resources available to New Haven residents during (and beyond) this COVID-19 situation. It’s a living list of food insecurity resources, organizations tackling financial stability problems, help from the city and state level, and a lot more.The idea is to keep track of organizations that are either helping others or that need our help to continue thriving.

Catalog of resources available in New Haven: https://newhavenreliefresources.com

Near the top of the page, there’s a link to “Suggest an addition ->”. Seeing as I don’t know everything about New Haven yet, I need your help to make this list more comprehensive. The more eyes see this, the more folks will know which local groups to support and more of our neighbors will get the help they need.

We like to call ourselves the Greatest Small City In America. It’s time to prove it.

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