COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. To help our community combat the outbreak, we are providing this content for free. For an interactive map and continuing coverage click here. Please consider supporting our efforts in providing local coverage by subscribing to the St. Joseph News-Press.

The Second Harvest Community Food Bank program known as “No Hunger Summer” kicked off Tuesday a little earlier than in years past.

The early start occurred because schools have closed after social distancing was recommended with the outbreak of COVID-19.

No Hunger Summer is providing free meals at five different locations around lunchtime.

At the Bartlett Center, meals were passed out to kids at 11:30 a.m., but first, Latonya Williams, associate director, youth & community outreach, had the table cleaned and the children washed their hands with disinfectant.

“(Second Harvest) provides pretty much all of our meals and all of our snacks every single day,” Williams said.

A sign in the yard outside the Sojourn Church on Savannah Avenue read “Free lunch for kids 18 and under” Tuesday. There volunteer coordinator Betty Ann Fisher was passing out bags of lunch between noon and 1 p.m. and will continue doing so Monday through Friday for the foreseeable future.

“People are still hungry, whether there’s a virus or not,” Fisher said. “It’s a simple thing that we can do, feeding our neighbors.”

Three other sites also began operation Tuesday, one in St. Joseph and two in Doniphan County, Kansas: Evolution United Methodist Church on West Hyde Park Avenue, and across the river at the Iowa Tribe in White Cloud, Kansas, and the Kickapoo Boys and Girls Club in Horton, Kansas.

All of the locations are handing out meals for the foreseeable future between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the exception of the Sojourn Church operating from noon until 1 p.m.

St. Joseph public schools are offering breakfast pickup between 7:45 and 8:45 a.m. and lunch pickup between 11:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. at Benton, Lafayette and Central high schools, as well as Carden Park, Coleman and Oak Grove elementary schools.

Also, Second Harvest announced Tuesday afternoon that Triumph Foods has donated 10,000 pounds of fresh pork products to the food bank.

Second Harvest CEO Chad Higdon said donations have been down at the food bank overall.

“When you go to the grocery store, you kind of see the shelves are depleted,” Higdon said. “We’re really trying to encourage folks to consider donating to food banks, we’re trying to gather volunteers, which is also a challenge because we obviously can’t accept large groups right now.”

Adults interested in volunteering can call 816-364-3663 and ask to speak with Andrew Foster to find out more.

In Andrew County, Savannah High School and Minnie Cline, Amazonia, Helena and John Glenn elementary schools are passing out breakfast and lunch bags between 11 a.m and noon. At those locations, drivers are being asked to not exit their vehicles, but simply roll down their windows.

Ryan Hennessy can be reached


Follow him on twitter: @NPNowHennessy.