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Mutual Aid Efforts Fill Gaps Left By Government COVID Response

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John Locher/Associated Press
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The Culinary Academy Las Vegas distributed Thanksgiving dinners last year to people affected by the pandemic.

As COVID-related business closures and self-isolation measures went into effect, thousands of Nevadans lost jobs overnight. The need for food, rental assistance, unemployment insurance, and more overwhelmed government resources.

So community members across the state who could help their neighbors stepped up — they started food pantries on their front porches. They created online resources for people in need.

Kim Foster is a James Beard award-winning food writer and contributor to Nevada Public Radio’s magazine, Desert Companion.

Her family converted their little free library into a food pantry — it started small at first, but eventually she was helping organize a team of volunteer cooks who put together fresh, nutritious meals for hundreds of people every month.

Megan Simons founded the Reno-Sparks Mutual Aid Facebook page to provide support and connections during the pandemic. She says that even though the pandemic is easing, the tough times will continue, particularly as evictions are allowed to resume.

"I think we are going to be seeing a wave of need," she told State of Nevada. "Right now we are seeing people who are posting needing to find a new place."

Kim Foster, James Beard award-winning food writer, Desert Companion contributor;  Meghan Simons, founder, Reno/Sparks Mutual Aid Facebook group;  Jennifer Elliott, founder, Sun Valley Karma Porch;  Peverill Squire, Political Science Professor, University of Missouri

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Bert is a reporter and producer based in Reno, where he covers the state legislature and stories that resonate across Nevada. He began his career in journalism after studying abroad during the summer of 2011 in Egypt, during the Arab Spring. Before he joined Nevada Public Radio and Capital Public Radio, Bert was a contributor at KQED and the Sacramento News & Review. He was also a photographer, video editor and digital producer at the East Bay Express.