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Beaches emergency assistance organization gives out food amid COVID-19 pandemic

Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry also needs help as donations from grocery stores have halted

Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry hosted its monthly food pantry
Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry hosted its monthly food pantry

MAYPORT, Fla. – As the economy continues to plunge due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions are expected to lose their jobs. Others are facing a big drop in income, as businesses across the board are down.

Among the hardest hit in the Northeast Florida area are people who work in the service and hospitality industry. With the growing need, a beaches emergency assistance organization is stepping up to the plate, but it’s also feeling the strain.

Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry hosted its monthly food pantry on Thursday at Joseph Finegan Elementary School in Mayport, where volunteers were busy giving out food and supplies to a long line of people -- single parents, laid-off workers and military members.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, recipients told News4Jax that the food pantry is more important now than ever.

“It’s really helpful right now, especially with the stores running out of food. We have two kids, so it’s really helpful,” recipient Nancy Raffaldt said.

The pandemic has caused some locals to lose their income or at least a large part of it. And food must still be on the table.

“Since we can’t really get paid that much everybody still needs food and the bills still need to get paid,” said volunteer and recipient Haley Bienvenu.

Normally, the volunteers spread out the food and the supplies all across the tables in the cafeteria at the elementary school so people can choose what they watch. But they couldn’t do that Tuesday because of concerns over the coronavirus. Instead, volunteers have adapted. They packed special boxes and they’re giving them to the families drive-through style.

“I’ve never done it before, but it was nice. It was easy,” said Jamien Ayala, whose husband is deployed.

The drivers picking up the boxes are not the only ones in need. The charity itself is having issues. The team normally picks up donations from eight to 10 grocery stores each day, but the illness has halted that.

“That as a source has completely stopped, so we are no longer picking up food from retailers. They can’t keep it on the shelves themselves,” said Lori Richards, executive director of BEAM.

With the reserves running out, and the nonprofit will soon have to pay to buy food from wholesalers.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we are certain that we will see an uptick in the demand for support,” Richards said.

BEAM is asking people who may be overstocked for the outbreak to drop off their extra supplies, and monetary donations are critical as the economy nosedives.

“It’s just been hard getting food. Like stores have been running out, so we’re just trying to survive right now,” Raffaldt said.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.