WORTHINGTON — Precious few routines have been left untouched by COVID-19, and practices at Worthington’s two food pantries are no exception.

However, staff members want to reassure those in need of food that their services remain available — although access points are slightly different, given the need for extra precautions in contact with others.

“We are still open at our usual hours,” said Linda Sanchez, manager of Manna Food Pantry.

“But to help prevent the spread of this virus, we are not allowing any families into the pantry during this time.”

Instead, both Manna Food Pantry and the Worthington Christian Church Food Shelf, which is co-directed by LeAnn and Bernie Thiner, have followed advice from Second Harvest Heartland to limit points of contact and thus reduce the chance of infection for everyone involved.

“Our volunteers are filling boxes with food, based on the number of people in each family, asking clients to wait in their vehicles, and bringing the food to them,” said LeAnn Thiner.

Sanchez describes a similar procedure at Manna Food Pantry.

“One of our volunteers meets a client at the door, collects their pantry card and issues a number,” described Sanchez.

“Then, inside the pantry, other volunteers gather groceries in the appropriate quantity for that client, with the cart of items being brought directly to the client’s vehicle.”

While this method does not allow food pantry clients to select particular items of their own preference, it ensures that food is available to those who need it, with the usual range and variety of products provided to each party.

“This helps us all feel comfortable that we are doing our best to keep our staff, volunteers and clients safe while still filling nutritional needs,” said Sanchez.

The Minnesota Office of Economic Opportunity is the authorizing body that waived the client choice requirement for TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) agencies in order to better support efforts to provide food while maintaining the safety of everyone involved in the food shelf process.

And as the food pantries continue to help feed Nobles County residents, opportunities to keep their shelves stocked also exist.

“The Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation is matching donations to the Worthington Christian Church Food Shelf during the Minnesota FoodShare March campaign,” said LeAnn Thiner.

And First State Bank Southwest is matching donations made to Manna Food Pantry during this period.

“Plus, Minnesota FoodShare has extended its March matching campaign through April 30, due to the Coronavirus issues, so all food shelves in the state will continue to get an extra benefit from donations made throughout April,” said Sanchez.

In explaining the decision to extend the date for partial matching of donations, Minnesota FoodShare released the following statement: “As we navigate COVID-19, the health and safety of our neighbors, partners and staff remain our number one priority. We are dedicated to doing our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and protect those who are most vulnerable.”

The Manna Food Pantry, located at 230 W. Clary St., Worthington, is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Questions may be directed to Linda Sanchez at 329-1951.

The Worthington Christian Church Food Shelf is located at 1501 Douglas Ave., Worthington, and is open from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday and 1 to 3 p.m. Friday. Questions may be directed to LeAnn or Bernie Thiner at 376-3418.