Local nonprofits adjust operations to follow pandemic safety guidelines

Local nonprofits adjust operations to follow pandemic safety guidelines

Photo Credits: Christina Liu / Aggie

Community faces an increase in overall need due to pandemic-related hardships

Just over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit organizations such as Yolo Food Bank, Yolo County Children’s Alliance and Progress Ranch have experienced significant changes, including an overall increase in need. 

Yolo Food Bank’s official website states that it serves to “coordinate the storage and distribution of food from a network of growers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and grocery stores, while simultaneously cultivating new sources of food.”

Yolo County Food Bank Director of Philanthropic Engagement Joy Cohan described the two categories of needs for food assistance during the pandemic. The first category is needs caused by factors such as job loss and business failures, and the second category is pre-existing needs in the community. 

“We are permanently at an increased level of service, so now our challenge is to sustain that level of service over the long-term,” Cohan said. “There’s going to be years of socioeconomic fallout from the pandemic. We are very keenly focused on how we sustain this level of service.”

Cohan further explained how Yolo Food Bank collected and distributed six million pounds of food per year before the pandemic. During the pandemic, 10 million pounds of food were collected and distributed. 

“We have the opportunity to look more deeply at what it really takes to have a local food system,” Cohan said. “Not just giving people food because they’re hungry, but really getting into the systemic issues that cause people to be chronically food-insecure or to come in and out of food security.”

Cohan expressed her gratitude to the community for their support. 

“We’re incredibly grateful at Yolo Food Bank to the community for prioritizing food security and meeting basic human needs during this pandemic,” Cohan said.

Yolo County Children’s Alliance’s website writes that it works to “help families, particularly non-English speaking families, access services, learn valuable parenting skills and find support.” 

Yolo County Children’s Alliance (YCCA) Director of Programs Jeneba Lahai described how YCCA was impacted by the pandemic.

“It has affected us a lot because we are a people-facing organization with the majority of services conducted in person,” Lahai said. “We are embedded within the community to serve families, individual adults and seniors.”

Lahai further explained that various YCCA’s services—such as parenting classes, home visits and other client services with the family resource center—have been conducted over phone, Zoom or FaceTime because of the pandemic. In some cases, in-person meetings were conducted one-on-one with clients in order to provide needed resources.  

Lahai noted how the pandemic has had a negative impact on income equality.

“Income inequality has widened because of the pandemic,” Lahai said. “As an organization, we are really looking at how we can support families at the other end of this pandemic.”

Lahai explained how YCCA is currently focusing on housing stability for families as well as on the family resource center in general.

“We want to make sure that every child, every family—no matter what you look like, what language you speak, where you come from—we want to make sure that you have access to resources that are available to you in order to thrive within Yolo County,” Lahai said. “We also want to make sure that there’s racial equity, equity all across the board in everything that we do.”

Progress Ranch, a Davis-based nonprofit, writes on its website that it specializes in “treating young male children who have experienced trauma and attachment disruption.”

Executive Director of Progress Ranch Wendi Counta explained how Progress Ranch faced difficulty in transitioning to online learning. 

“We got very innovative, but I would say that the hardest part was on our kids,” Counta said.

Counta described how the pandemic caused Progress Ranch to adjust their method of operations. 

“We need to do some realignment of our current situation of staffing and just making everything run more efficiently,” Counta said. “COVID really took us two steps forward, one step back. We’ve got a lot more work to do to clean up after that.”

Counta added a final note regarding the importance of nonprofit organizations during the pandemic. 

“While some businesses have seen a drop in what they need, the services they provide, I would say nonprofits are seeing an increase in needing to support and help the community,” Counta said.
Written by: Jelena Lapuz  — city@theaggie.org