As Orange County continues to creep toward re-opening, many are still struggling due to lost jobs and income due to COVID-19. One organization is providing aid from the Orange County Fairgrounds, just across the street from Orange Coast College.
The OC Fairgrounds is one of several locations from which the Power of One Foundation has been offering assistance during the pandemic in the form of drive-through food banks.
The foundation, sometimes referred to as POOF, is a non-profit that has been operating in Orange County for the past 15 years, providing staples such as canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, rice, peanut butter, oatmeal and even fresh produce and whole chickens depending on their supplies for the week. POOF was one of the first to adapt when the pandemic caused the number of people in need of assistance to soar last spring.
The drive-through consists of two rows of tents, each staffed by its own team of volunteers. Cars are directed to pull up to these tents and open their trunks, where a volunteer then supplies them with a box of food. Keeping each tent a minimum of six feet apart from its nearest neighbor has also made it easy to comply with social distancing protocols as well.
According to Andre Roberson, CEO and executive director of the foundation, the process has actually become more streamlined as a drive-through compared to its previous walk-up system.
“Right from the beginning to the end, we’re making sure that everyone is masked up, everyone is wearing gloves. Two people will come to volunteer together, and we will put them on a tent, or on a different volunteer duty, together,” Roberson said. “And the beautiful thing about this is all the volunteers who have worked with us have always kept safety in mind.”
Temperatures among volunteers are also checked, and tables regularly sanitized.
During the early months of the quarantine, the foundation initially saw a surge in volunteers, though numbers have begun to decline as businesses re-open. But as POOF seeks to add additional days to each of their locations, volunteers remain the lifeblood of their foundation.
“We’re still being affected by [the pandemic] in a major way economically,” Roberson said. “When it first started, there were ten mile lines out there, then things started to open up and you started to see a little change in the lines, but not in the needs. And with COVID 19 making a resurgence, we can see the need increasing. That’s why we offer more days.”
Hours for the food bank generally last from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., although the hours are dependent on how long supplies last. Volunteers can opt for shifts starting at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., or 8 a.m. through the foundation’s website. Donations can also be made through the POOF website as well.
POOF has one more food bank scheduled for the OC Fairgrounds this month on Oct. 31. Additional food banks will be held in other locations throughout Orange County. More information can be found on the foundation’s website or its Facebook page.