Governor Pete Ricketts urged Nebraskans to “Stay Home and Stay Healthy” during his April 13 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 have made it easier for Nebraskans in need to access food.  

Scott Young, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Lincoln, and Leia Noel, President of Foodnet in Lincoln, joined the Governor at the April 13 press event.  They talked about their organizations’ efforts to provide food security to Nebraskans affected by the COVID-19 emergency.

Gov. Ricketts: 21 Days to Keep Nebraska Healthy

We are now on Day 4 of the “21 Days to Stay Home and Stay Healthy” campaign. I want to remind 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 family with you. Help kids follow social distancing.  Play at home.  No group sports.  And 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 we help feed the world. During this time, we are taking steps to make sure our families have continued access to food. Last week, we announced changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Among other things…
We’ve extended recertification periods by six months during the months of April and May.  We’re providing emergency allotments to SNAP recipients, up to the amount of maximum allotment per household, in April and May. We’ve also 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. Let’s make sure our families can continue to access the food they need during this pandemic. I urge Nebraskans to step up and help their local food bank.
You can find a directory of food banks at foodpantries.org.

Scott Young: Food Bank of Lincoln

We serve every county in the state of Nebraska. Normally, half of our distribution points are schools.  To continue to serve Nebraskans, we’re adapting our operations in keeping with health guidelines. During the pandemic, our network—Feeding America—anticipates a 45% increase in food insecure people during the next six months. In Nebraska, we have 223,000 food insecure people.  A 45% increase would represent roughly 100,000 additional people struggling with hunger. We’re seeing 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. We’ve seen great spikes in our rural settings where we pass out pre-packed bags.  At these sites, we use low-contact or no-contact methods to protect our clients and staff from infection. One of our challenges now is that resources are going down as need is going up. Grocery stores, where we typically pick up product, are making use of everything they have to meet demand. The food we order now may take 4-6 weeks to reach our food bank. We have concerns now, 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. We 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 folks who’ve lost employment will be in need of food bank provisions.  Thank you to everyone who is donating to help them.

Leia Noel: Foodnet

Foodnet operates in Lincoln and the surrounding communities. Foodnet receives food from grocery stores and other businesses, and our volunteers distribute it to those in need. During a normal week, we pick up provisions at nearly 100 locations and serve 5,000 to 6,000 people. In early March, we adjusted our operations to comply with health guidance from the Governor, our mayor, and the local health department. We closed some of our usual locations at the request of our host sites. We also saw a reduction in our retired volunteer base, as they are especially vulnerable to the virus.  We fully supported their decision to stay home and stay safe. We’ve adjusted to having fewer sites and a smaller number of volunteers. We currently have sites open every day except Wednesday. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we have three sites open.  This is helpful to the community since many food banks are not as accessible on the weekend. We’ve 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. We 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. Nebraskans can also volunteer to distribute food.  Foodnet has volunteer openings at some locations. Foodnet’s website, foodnetlincoln.org, has contact information and details about distribution sites. Thanks to grocery stores and businesses for donating so that we can serve Nebraskans in need.

Full video of the April 13 press briefing is available by clicking here.