By Dave Russell, Sylva Herald

The nonprofit working to feed Jackson County residents suffering from food insecurity finds itself asking the community for help of a different kind.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual asks – donations and volunteers – are not the Community Table’s biggest needs.

“The number one thing is for everybody to take this seriously,” Community Table Executive Director Paige Christie said. “People need to understand that this is real, this is dangerous and could kill the person standing next to them or that person could kill them.” 

The Community Table cannot become a “vector point” for COVID-19, she said.

“If we can’t get people to take it seriously and not gather in crowds down here, we’ll have to close,” she said. “Our biggest concern right now is maintaining the health and safety of our staff. If people are not taking this seriously and they get one of us sick, we’re done. We’re closed and we may not re-open. That’s worst-case scenario.”

Christie encountered three people last week who had not heard of the pandemic, she said.

Food costs are going up and monetary donations are essential. 

“We understand that’s getting harder as people lose their jobs,” she said. “We’re going to do the best we can for as long as we can. We’ve probably doubled the number of foodboxes we have given out in the last two weeks. We had to have an emergency secondary truck from MANNA Foodbank last week.”

Volunteers have been a mainstay of the Community Table, but not right now. 

“At this point, we are not taking on folks,” she said. “We’re running on a core staff of five who have been here from the start. We don’t know where people have been, we don’t know what they are doing outside of here. We don’t want them to endanger anybody and we don’t want them endangering us.”

The Community Table instituted drive-up pick-up earlier this week. 

Folks seeking a foodbox and meals should follow the cones and remain in their car to pick up food. 

Staff will speak to clients from a distance and bring a box and meals.

“We will bring them the food, set it on the ground and they can get out of their car and put it in their car and then drive away,” she said.

The service will be available from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. each weekday except Wednesday. Clients are limited to one visit per day.