Communicating In a PandemicSharon2021-02-05T13:10:39-06:00
Initial Communication Response
In February of 2020, teamworks communication recognized increased media references to a potential pandemic called coronavirus or COVID-19. We reached out to our client United Food Bank to gauge how prepared they would be to deal with this type of situation.
Their crisis plan did have a section on how they would serve clients in the case of a pandemic. We worked with the team to make sure their plan addressed how they would:
respond to an employee or volunteer COVID infection.
attract vital volunteers in the midst of health concerns.
communicate with donors, volunteers and employees about new procedures to ensure safety.
teamworks developed a crisis plan to address the above issues and more, as well as drafting appropriate message points. We then reached out to media about the continued need for volunteers in order for United Food Bank to continue serving people in need.
In the Midst of the Pandemic
As the pandemic spread through Arizona in March, many people lost their jobs. This resulted in a huge influx of clients visiting United Food Bank’s weekly Friday food distribution. In the ensuing weeks, the average weekly number of households coming for help would rise from 500 to more than 2,500. Procedures for, as well as location and timing of, the weekly distribution were constantly being adapted to handle both safety concerns and crowd control. Ultimately, the distribution moved to the parking lot of the Mesa Convention Center and an additional distribution day was added.
During all this teamworks was busy telling United Food Bank’s story — how they offered a solution for people impacted by the pandemic. and how they needed volunteers and donations. The first few weeks we had at least two stations doing live shots and interviews. After each one, donations went up significantly.
Our challenge throughout the ongoing months of the pandemic was to keep finding new ways of telling United Food Bank’s story to potential clients, volunteers and donors. Here are some examples of that storytelling success:
MARCH 13, 2020
United Food Bank changes the procedures for its weekly food distribution in light of COVID-19 concerns. Also braces for increase in food needs.
MARCH 17, 2020
United Food Bank needs healthy volunteers as corporate volunteer groups cancel due to COVID concerns.
MARCH 20, 2020
United Food Bank bringing in truckloads of food to meet dramatically rising need for food assistance.
APRIL 8, 2020
The Phoenix Cardinals and State Farm donate meals to help area food banks, including United Food Bank, to meet rapidly increased demand. Weekly food distribution has risen from serving 500 families each week to more than 2,200 families.
APRIL 10, 2020
United Food Bank moved its food distribution each Friday to the Mesa Convention Center parking lot in order to more effectively serve thousands of families — many of them seeking food assistance for the first time — impacted by COVID.
APRIL 26, 2020
Partnering with Resolution Copper, United Food Bank brought 62,000 pounds of food to the White Mountain Apache Reservation for a drive-thru distribution for members hard hit economically by the pandemic. More than 1200 families, or roughly more than 5000 individuals, received enough food for 75,000 meals.
MAY 6, 2020
Mesa provides furloughed city employees to staff the weekly food distribution at the Mesa Convention Center.
MAY 6, 2020
United Food Bank offering food distribution at the Mesa Convention Center two times per week to better manage crowds. Sun City woman, impacted by media coverage of the growing need for food assistance, donates a portion of her late husband’s memorial fund to United Food Bank.
JULY 26, 2020
As Federal supplements to unemployment drew to an end, United Food Bank braced for even higher need for food assistance and began operating food distribution events twice weekly to better manage the crowds of families coming for help.
JULY 30, 2020
United Food Bank expects food needs to increase when Federal supplemental unemployment funds end. At the peak of unemployment in April, monthly food distributions by United Food Bank rose from 1.6 million pounds pre-COVID to 2.6 million pounds. The organization also called for more volunteers as the national guard support at weekly food distributions also ends.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2020
As the need for food continued, United Food Bank partnered with Wells Fargo to provide a Wednesday night food distribution in Apache Junction (after previously partnering at a Gilbert Wells Fargo location).
OCTOBER 5, 2020
Though United Food Bank has plenty of fresh food to distribute, it needs more nonperishable food items to keep up with demand during the pandemic. We also did a call out for more volunteers to help sort and distribute food.
NOVEMBER 20, 2020
United Food Bank’s pre-Thanksgiving food distribution served 2,700 families (the highest number of households served at one distribution event to date), representing more than 11,500 individuals. It took 100 volunteers, 40 members of the National Guard and 9 semi-trailer loads of food to meet the needs of struggling families to celebrate Thanksgiving meals.
NOVEMBER 20, 2020
ABC 15 aired this great piece, complete with interviews with families receiving the Thanksgiving food distribution.
FEBRUARY 5, 2021
After the holidays, volunteers became less plentiful. United Food Bank, which relies on more than 200 volunteers each week to sort food donations and fill emergency food bags, issues an urgent call for volunteers.