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Community Market of Pottawatomie County continues to serve, though few at time

Vicky O. Misa

Community Market of Pottawatomie County is accustomed to many visitors during the day, but the COVID-19 measures being imposed this week have created challenges.

“Isolated is an interesting dance when a community needs food,” Executive Director Daniel Matthews said Thursday.

The food bank, at 120 S. Center, has not stopped serving its clientele; they are just having to trickle in slowly, a few at a time.

“Currently, we have switched to a model that only lets eight to 10 clients in our building at a time,” he said. “We practice social distancing in our intake process.”

Instead of the typical full-client choice when shopping, the market has pre-boxed staple items ready to go.

“At this point, clients are still selecting produce, meats and refrigerated items,” he said. “We sanitize and clean both our lobby and shopping area after each set of guests pass through.”

On Thursday his small group of volunteers boxed 691 boxes of food to go out next week.

“We will continue to do this daily,” he said. “Shawnee Mill has been amazing to donate boxes to allow us to begin to stock up on ready made boxes for families.”

Matthews said he expects the need to increase, and as the market is asked by officials to help comply with avoiding larger gatherings, its policy could change — as early as next week.

“Effective today (Friday, March 20), our community service program will be temporarily paused to help us comply with the limited number of people we can have on-site at any time,” he explained.

In a related effort, Matthews said the market is working to start its summer feeding program up as early as next week. to help children and youth who are either outside the Shawnee schools district or aren’t able to connect with the bus service.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have the leadership in our schools that is looking out for our kids in providing lunch service,” he said. “Dr. (April) Grace and her staff have done an amazing job.”

He said the market will have the same waiver from the USDA, which allows kids to take the food home to eat. “The outstanding leadership of the schools on lunches for kids has allowed us to pivot and focus on providing for families,” he said. “We will also be enhancing our service to seniors beginning in April which will provide a larger allotment of food and thus stay safe at home.”

The shuffling of such vast amounts of food — especially with limited staff — is a challenge, as this is not a regional disaster, but a national one, Matthews said.

“We are working with the Regional Food Bank to source the best products we can,” he said. “Usually, food banks from unaffected areas of the country are able to help carry the weight of the region expecting a disaster.”

In this case, he explained, it’s the entire country and the system has no slack.

“Our food costs for this week have doubled,” he said. “We forecast high food costs for the next quarter as we respond to the increase in need.”

He said the market's board has directed staff to use all resources at its disposal to make sure no one in the community goes to bed hungry.

“We must remain vigilant to do this in a way that keeps the health and safety at the forefront,” he said. “Our focus remains on meeting the needs of the hungry in our community while looking out for the health of our guests, volunteers and staff.”

Any changes will be updated on the market's Facebook page.

In yet another added effort, the Community Market also has partnered with Resthaven Funeral Home to deliver to home-bound individuals and guests who aren’t able to come to market because underlying health conditions make the trip a high risk.

Watch for more on that story in a future edition, at