Efforts continue in DeWitt and surrounding communities to provide food to those who need it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The DeWitt Referral Center is offering food boxes filled with non-perishable offerings for those who need it. Center director Michelle Ehlinger said anyone who needs a box of food can stop at the center during business hours or call (563) 659-9612. Food also can be delivered to doorsteps if requested.

The center hosted an outside food drive Tuesday-Friday to gather non-perishable foods, but the need for more donations continues. Ehlinger said a “boatload” of food items was brought in for distribution, but the need still exists.

Center officials ask that non-perishable food items be dropped into bins outside the building. Donators should not go into the center to leave the items; Ehlinger said she is only allowing her and one other person in the center at all times to adhere to social distancing practices.

The center also is accepting monetary donations, but due to the volume of food being handled, Ehlinger requested no thrift store donations be left during the pandemic.

The effort to distribute food during the COVID-19 outbreak has been organized by multiple community organizations including the bevy of churches and individuals, Ehlinger said.

“The community is just amazing.”

Referral Center donations needed include:

• Canned fruit

• Canned soup (chicken or tomato)

• Canned meat (chicken or tuna)

• Canned veggies (mixed or peas)

• Spaghetti-O’s and ravioli

• Box mixes of muffins, brownies, etc.

• Hamburger Helper

• Cereal (especially kid-friendly)

• Ramen noodles

Kitty Willimack, a member of DeWitt United Methodist Church, said she and several others attempted an early start to the church’s bagged lunch program that typically runs in the summer months. However, she said finding enough food to fill the bags for individual meals wasn’t possible now.

“Gayle Powell and I have been out in stores searching for food,” Willimack said. “We have been able to get enough items to make up 24 bags. It is almost impossible to get the necessary food we need.”

The church plans to operate the summer lunch box program again later this year, Willimack said.

Restaurants offering carryout

A proclamation by Gov. Kim Reynolds Tuesday morning limited all social gatherings to less than 10 people. The measure forced the closure of many businesses including restaurants, bars, and other gathering points. Many restaurants moved to a curbside, carry-out service.

DeWitt Chamber and Development Corporation Executive Director Angela Rheingans said the nature of Reynolds’ restriction limits the type of food help available.

“There have been opportunities for meals to be provided in the past, but you can’t come and get a meal (and sit) and eat. It’s going to be all carryout and takeout options. Whether it’s a meal delivery or a food box, that’s being determined right now.”

Rheingans also encouraged those who can to support local restaurants and other establishments.

“I feel like everyone is encouraging us to hunker down and restrict movements and interaction,” she said, “but I think we have to remember we have an incredible business community in DeWitt. What we can do to look local first and support those business, we need to do it.”