By MADDY VITALE
Like so many other charitable organizations throughout the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, the volunteers at the Ocean City Ecumenical Council Food Cupboard had their share of struggles.
The pandemic brought restrictions that made it harder for them to do their job of providing meals to those who need it most throughout the community.
Despite challenges, the dedicated members continued to make home deliveries to qualified homebound residents, and just recently opened the doors again to those who wish to pick up their food packages at the cupboard, which is located in St. Peter’s United Methodist Church at 501 E. Eighth Street.
From March until September, clients would contact the Food Cupboard, and with the help of The Knights of Columbus, food was delivered to them.
By October, the Food Cupboard was reopened for people to come in to get their groceries.
Volunteers Regina Ralston and Joan Chapman are co-chairing the Food Cupboard until June.
“As a Food Cupboard, we are fully operational again,” Ralston said in an interview Tuesday. “We got volunteers to come back. I am just one cog in a wheel. The focus is to keep the volunteers and the public safe.”
In doing so, Ralston noted that the volunteers strictly adhere to health and safety guidelines from the CDC. They social distance, only a few volunteers can be in the cupboard packing up bags of groceries for families at any given time, everyone uses hand sanitizer and wears gloves.
As an added safety precaution, food donations are quarantined for 48 hours before they are put on a shelf to be packaged up later for those in need, Ralston said.
Throughout 2020, the Food Cupboard provided food to 845 households, which included 1,022 adults and 299 children. While the majority of the clients visit the Food Cupboard, there are qualified homebound clients who receive home delivery once a month.
Ralston noted that they make deliveries to Wesley by the Bay at 24th Street and Bayview Manor at 635 West Ave., among other locations in town.
Dotti Cianci was the Food Cupboard coordinator for years, prior to the start of the pandemic, when she decided to step down.
She pointed out in an interview Tuesday that members of the Food Cupboard, especially people such as Ralston, have picked up where she left off.
“Regina Ralston has done so many good things for the cupboard,” Cianci said. “She does the home delivery. I think we as a Food Cupboard have done so much for a community.”
Specifically, the Food Cupboard provides staples. Boxed, canned, non-perishable foods such as cereals, pastas, vegetables, soups and breads go to families who qualify.
“We also give out bread, cheese, hotdogs,” Ralston explained.
The meals cannot be compared to Meals on Wheels or other daily food providers. Rather, they serve to supplement or assist families with groceries.
“It is a three-day emergency supply and it works out for some people. If there is a family of three or four or five people, we give more,” Ralston said.
She explained that in 2020 especially more than in years prior, the community has been so giving.
Some donations even were delivered to the Food Cupboard from Amazon and Walmart, she said.
“Monetarily, people have been most generous. People haven’t been traveling and donations have been coming in,” Ralston said.
Local organizations and schools helped add to the donations. The Ocean City Intermediate School donated food supplies in November.
“It may have been over Thanksgiving, but it helped stock the shelves,” Ralston said.
The Food Cupboard is open 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Donations of non-perishable food and monetary donations are always accepted.
For more information call 609-398-3191.