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Food bank open for low income families

Stimulus money and other pandemic-related funding sources are creating a false sense of security among low income Beaufort County residents, according to leaders at Eagles Wings Food Pantry, who say many could be keeping more of that money if they return to the food pantry for what they’re already approved to receive.

“Many new avenues of assistance have opened since the pandemic hit, but they won’t last,” said Anne Marie Montague, executive director of Eagles Wings Food Pantry. “People are using increased SNAP allotments and stimulus money for food. We understand that you have extra now, but after September 1 that may all go back to regular levels. Try to save all of that. Use stimulus money to pay bills. Let SNAP funding stay on your card. Start a savings account for emergencies. Don’t spend it for food when you qualify to get that right here.”

According to Montague, visits from qualified Beaufort County residents have dropped more than 20% since the pandemic began. Pandemic-related changes at Eagles Wings now eliminate risk of contagion and hopefully soothe client fears about exposure to the virus.

“Only 10 people at a time are seated in the front office. We’ve streamlined intake sessions and eliminated all questions about expenses. Even our new clients are out in about 10 minutes,” said Kathleen Couch, client relations coordinator at Eagles Wings.

Food pantry clients now park across from the building, and wait for food pantry staff to allow them across the street ten cars at a time. They no longer shop for themselves; masked-up Eagles Wings volunteers deliver shopping carts containing an average of 100 pounds of food and supplies directly to clients’ vehicles. Two special “senior box” programs and delivery for the medically impaired are also still available, as well as several “satellite locations”, one locally for the Spanish-speaking community, and two in Aurora.

“We’ve worked very hard to keep everyone safe. We’ve taken every precaution possible. Two registered nurses screen everybody who comes to the door, including volunteers and staff. We are serious about this,” Montague said. “We aren’t distinguishing between people because the virus doesn’t distinguish between what kind of person it infects.”

Couch said that new clients are still being accepted, based on income. Anyone receiving Medicaid – even if that recipient is a child – automatically qualifies to receive food for their family. First visits require a photo ID confirming Beaufort County residency. If the ID doesn’t include that, clients may also bring a lease, bill, or other piece of mail containing their Beaufort County address. Applicants with SNAP and Medicaid cards should also bring those. Staff will let newcomers know if anything else is needed, and allow for that delivery during their next visit.

Eagles Wings Food Pantry is located at 932 W. Third St. in Washington, open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no food distribution on any fifth Tuesday, which Montague said is now used for sanitation. For more information, call 252-975-1138.