Nourishing Neighbors: Increasing Food Access During COVID-19
It’s no question that COVID-19 has introduced incredible, unprecedented challenges to our communities. Amidst all the challenges, however, are great examples of connection and community members going out of their way to support neighbors. We are happy to share one of these moments of community-building that’s happening—in spite of the pandemic—at Yorkdale Townhomes.
Yorkdale Townhomes is one of our communities in Edina, Minnesota and is home to many families and children. You may have seen our video featuring Yorkdale residents last year… Yorkdale is a vibrant community—one where neighbors gather and look after each other, and where kids grow up together as close friends. The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging in this close-knit community, as this sense of togetherness both with each other and CommonBond staff has been disrupted. It’s a key element that makes Yorkdale truly a community, beyond just a collection of homes. But while literally showing up for one another has been drastically limited, CommonBond staff have been working to find creative ways to ensure families have what they need when resources feel scarce.
There are so many factors in addition to housing that help ensure stability for our residents. Access to food is one of these foundational factors. However, we know that renters, more so than homeowners, face the steepest challenges in meeting basic needs, and as a result often make sacrifices in essential areas such as food and healthcare in order to pay their rent. Notably, studies show that in 2017, about 30% of renters experienced food insecurity. Nonfinancial barriers to food exist as well: residents may lack the time or accessible transit options to buy groceries, or a disability may hinder access as well. Especially now, going to the grocery store may not be an option for older adults or folks living with a chronic illness. With all of this in mind, CommonBond staff at Yorkdale have been working hard to remove these barriers and increase residents’ access to food—even amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
Starting in November, Advantage Services staff members coordinated a partnership with Mobile Loaves, a mobile food truck, to deliver food to residents at Yorkdale once a month. Volunteers would come to the property with quite a spread: hot and cold sandwiches, fruit options, dessert—even hot chocolate!
They also offered other supplies, including hygiene products, hats, socks, and gloves. Rachel, the Advantage Services Coordinator at Yorkdale, spoke about the deliveries:
“They'd park in our parking lot for 2-3 hours and residents would swing by to grab what they needed. It honestly become a very fun monthly block party with residents gathering and chatting in the snow! Over 100 residents would show up each month! The volunteers went above and beyond to serve residents: They bought special vegan marshmallows to put in the hot chocolate so it was halal for the Muslim youth. They also came on MLK day in the middle of a blizzard!”
Once the COVID-19 crisis began, it wasn’t clear if and how the food delivery could continue. While the increased need for food accessibility was unquestionable, Yorkdale staff had to first figure out the logistics to ensure the safety of everyone involved. However, with some extra coordination and creative problem-solving, we are happy to say that the food deliveries are going strong, with the proper safety precautions in place!
As of April, residents can “order” the type and quantity of sandwiches through the Advantage Services Coordinator, and staff from Property Management and Maintenance deliver the food—now pre-wrapped in plastic to reduce contact—right to the residents’ doors. While the food delivery can no longer take the form of a monthly block party, the presence of community and care for our neighbors is evident in the actions of the Yorkdale staff and Mobile Loaves volunteers. It truly is a team effort, and these efforts have tangible positive effects on the lives of our residents.