Coronavirus Pandemic at Matchan Nutrition Center

Coronavirus Pandemic at Matchan Nutrition Center

Coronavirus Pandemic at Matchan Nutrition Center 1000 1000 St. Vincent de Paul Detroit

Matchan Nutrition Center normally serves hot nutritious meals cooked from scratch. Meals include a meat dish, one or two vegetables, bread, salad, dessert and a beverage. On Thursday March 12th, everything changed. Instead of hot meals, it began preparing bag lunches,, and only the homeless were permitted to sit in the dining hall. Others were asked to exit the building after picking up their meal. It was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Matchan needed to put protocols in place to protect its volunteers, neighbors in need and community.

The following Monday, the Matchan Board met, to discuss how best to continue serving the community, and ensure it was following the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order. Since many of Matchan’s Vincentian volunteers are retirees, they were asked to stay home if they did not feel comfortable coming in. The decision was made to close the dining hall and begin distributing bag lunches outside. To adhere to the recommended social distancing practices, tables were used to separate volunteers and neighbors in need, and produce and bread was bagged and handed out to minimize contact. “Grab-and-Go” became the mantra.

As the pandemic continued, the center began seeing a significant increase in the number of individuals and families it was serving. On a regular day, Matchan served around 165 people. By April, that number increased to over 237 people.

Because luncheon meat for sandwiches is usually not donated, and bread donations were insufficient to keep up with demand, food costs began to rise. In addition, regular food donation partners temporarily closed or paused to evaluate how to meet the increased demands of area food pantries and kitchens. As a result the center’s food costs increased from $.60 to $3.00 per person. Fortunately, donations and food distribution are getting back to normal, and individuals have given generously to help make a difference.

Because so many businesses were temporarily suspending operations, the center began seeing an increase in the numbers of new neighbors. Neighbors like Carol Bevargas, a single mother with three children ages 12, 17 and 19. She just moved to Michigan from California, and found employment at a local family services organization, but the job was placed on hold because of COVID-19. Suddenly finding herself in a situation where she needed assistance, she turned to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit’s Matchan Nutrition Center, where she was welcomed. She was extremely grateful not only for the assistance she received, but for the warmth and friendliness in which it was offered.

So much has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No one knows when the pandemic will end, or what our “new normal” will be. But what we do know is that as long as our neighbors need assistance to make it through today, Matchan Nutrition Center and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit will be there to offer assistance, friendship and hope.