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Food pantries working to keep serving through coronavirus outbreak

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MADISON (WKOW) -- As people continue to clear supermarket shelves in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, local food pantries are adjusting to make sure people stay fed and healthy.

"This place is just a godsend to so many people," said Deb Crist, who volunteers at The River Food Pantry in Madison. "I hear it up at registration all the time. Even more so during the virus."

Outbreak or not, The River serves 1,000 families each week.

"No matter what happens, people have to have food," said CEO Charles McLimans.

Right now, McLimans says the pantry has food, but there are some new changes to make sure people can get the food without getting sick.

To help with prevention, the pantry has gloves, masks and hand sanitizer available right at the entrance.

They're also only letting in 25 people at a time.

"We're expanding our hours so that we can accommodate more people," McLimans said. "But we're reducing the number of people that we're allowing on site at any one time."

Additionally, the pantry will stop accepting clothes, but will certainly welcome food and hygiene products.

"If somebody is sitting on a stockpile of toilet paper and wants to bring it in, we would gladly accept that," McLimans said.

Another big change -- the 'Feed The Need' event, which is a major fundraiser for The River -- now has to be postponed.

"It is certainly worrisome to us that just when an increase to our services is needed, our revenue stream is affected," McLimans said.

Despite the setbacks and worry, McLimans says he's still hopeful people will keep stepping up to help out during the outbreak so the pantry can keep serving those who need it.

"We intend to be here through the duration, and we'll continue to put other contingency plans in place to ensure we can continue to get that food out."

The River Food Pantry is also canceling its hot meals and clothing distribution, as well as its senior distribution sessions on Wednesdays.

All of the latest information and changes to The River's services will be posted on its website and Facebook page.

The pantry says anyone who is home sick and needs food should call The River so it can help get food to them.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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