Oct. 16 is World Food Day. In an effort to bring awareness to struggles that people face regarding food insecurity in the U.S., Yahoo Life is republishing this story. It was originally published on Aug. 16, 2020.
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, Stacy Mason recognized that some of her colleagues were struggling.
The Virginia nurse, who works at Mary Washington Hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Fredericksburg, saw that some employees couldn’t find the items they needed to care for their families.
“Some of the staff I work with in the ICU weren’t able to find things like wipes for their children, or they didn’t realize they needed toilet paper until they went to the cupboard and didn’t have any,” Mason told Yahoo Life. “You kind of heard staff talking amongst themselves, saying, ‘Hey can you pick that up’ and ‘I’ll run out and get it, and you’d find that item appear within a couple of days. And I thought if we could do that, amongst our ICU group, and we’re about 80 people or so, why couldn’t we do it on a larger scale?”
To make matters worse, a lot of hospital employees were becoming the sole earners for their families because their significant others lost jobs due to the pandemic.
With the full support of the hospital, Mason established a “Team Cupboard” in May that allowed her ICU colleagues to donate or grab items they might need, like diapers, wipes or food items. Her endeavor is similar to the trend of mini-pantries, “blessing boxes” and other makeshift food donation receptacles that are helping the hungry and those hit hard by the pandemic get fed.
“Myself and my family, we went to the grocery store and just bought things,” says Mason, who set up donation tables, and had flyers made by the hospital’s marketing department. “I just set it up, and by word of mouth it kind of grew, and people would see me out stocking and say, ‘How can we contribute?’ It kind of blossomed from there.”
Though Mason, who continued working full-time in the ICU, was the initial person contributing to the cupboard, it’s now become a group effort. In addition to contributions from employees themselves, several of Mason’s friends and family have helped, as well as several local businesses and realtors.
“So many people have joined in with me,” she said. “They’re helping to donate items or keep the pantry running or stocked.” Even Mason’s two young children have joined in. “I was out this morning to get stuff for the pantry, and even the kids are kind of into it!”
Because of Mason’s pursuit, the pantry has expanded far beyond just the ICU. In addition to the branch at her hospital, there’s now one at their sister facility, Stafford Hospital, as well as the Mary Washington Healthcare corporate office. But Mason isn’t slowing down yet; she hopes the cupboard will continue on through the pandemic and even become a permanent fixture.
“Hopefully this will continue kind of indefinitely,” she said. “I think hunger is a very real thing. Everybody has the right to have food on their table. I think it’s just a way to help people meet that need, whether that’s acutely because of COVID, or an ongoing issue for people.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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