Coronavirus – COVID 19: at the Rhône Food Bank, “We are on the bridge!”

Normally, the Rhône Food Bank, located in Décines near Lyon, operates with nine employees and a hundred volunteers. Volunteers who take turns one to two days a week. But the Coronavirus crisis and the obligation of confinement upset the organization of this association.

Today, the President of the Rhône Food Bank, Patrick Charvin wants to reassure and explains “we are on deck, we operate but in degraded mode!”. The Rhône Food Bank, which redistributes foodstuffs to nearly 130 associations in the department and sector of Vienne (north Isère), usually works with many senior volunteers. As a safety measure, volunteers 65 and over have returned home. “It is not a punishment, but it is to ensure their safety,” explains Patrick Charvin.

We’re on the move but we’re shooting in a reduced team, dixit Patrick Charvin

To date, they are therefore a dozen to operate the Rhône Food Bank, including 4 employees and 7 to 8 volunteers. Against about fifty people before the initiation of sanitary measures.
“In agreement with the Rhône prefecture, we open one day a week, Thursday, ” says Patrick Charvin, “We asked the associations to tell us about their needs on Tuesday or Wednesday.” It is then the associations which can come to supply themselves in the warehouse. And the President of the Rhône Food Bank adds: “in addition, we can deliver them piecemeal, on demand, especially for associations that do raids.”

…. do not panic! Service continuity is assured

Food for the most precarious and poor families will therefore not be lacking, at the Rhône Food Bank, we assure it. To the heads of associations, the message is clear: “No panic, we will always be there to help, ” explains Patrick Charvin,“we will ensure continuity of service!”

The associations supplied by the Food Bank include the Salvation Army Foundation, the Foyer Notre Dame des Sans Abri, small local associations or even social restaurants, CCAS or CHRS (accommodation and social reintegration centers).

“We don’t work like Restos du Coeur,” recalls Patrick Charvin. In fact, foodstuffs are redistributed to partner associations. The Food Bank is an intermediary. He specifies that redistributions to associations of foodstuffs will also be made according to the number of their beneficiaries. Principle of equitable distribution obliges. Almost 6000 tonnes of food products are collected each year (equivalent to 11 million meals)

How is the Food Bank supplied today?
“There are no more collections in supermarkets,” explains the President of the association. But they did not represent the bulk of the supply. These large-scale collections represent 1,000 tonnes of foodstuffs per year, “only one fifth of the products,” he explains. For the rest, the Food Bank relies in particular on Europe, on the Grande Collecte Nationale but also a lot on industrialists in the agro-food sector.

To individuals who offer to replace confined volunteers, Patrick Charvin does not want to repel goodwill but prefers that volunteers apply the confinement instructions and remain for the time being in reserve … “It’s generous, we may need them later!”

The Rhône Food Bank was created in 1986, and is one of the 79 Banks making up the French Federation of Food Banks.

The Rhône Food Bank website