A line of cars drove to 10th Street from Twin City Drive on Friday morning as people waited for food distributed by volunteers and staff at the Community Action Partnership of West Nebraska (CAPWN) for the second week of the Farmers to Families food box program.
Sarah Ochoa, director of public health services for CAPWN, said food was provided by a federal program to ensure farmers did not need to dump food due to COVID-19 disruption to the market. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the authority to buy milk, meat and produce up to $ 3 billion and distribute food throughout the country.
Ochoa said that volunteers and CAPWN staff will continue to distribute food in the Farmers to Families program for the next four days, and return to distribution once a month after that.
“Obviously, there is a need in the community,” he said. “We don’t see the same people every week, which is a good thing, people come when they need them.”
According to their website, the USDA spent $ 1.2 billion on 35.4 million lunch boxes from mid-May to the end of June, and the ongoing second round estimated the department to spend $ 1.47 billion on food, until the end of August. Ochoa said CAPWN worked with a food distributor in North Platte, Cash-Wa Distributing Co. Inc.
Ochoa said people started queuing at 7am waiting for food distribution starting at 8am. At 9:30 in the morning, all food was distributed. What remains, according to the Star-Herald count, is the drivers in 40 vehicles that have been waiting in line to leave empty-handed.
Ochoa said CAPWN will work with distributors to order additional food for distribution next week.
“We hate kicking people out, but the good thing is that we do it every week,” he said. “If someone really needs food today, I want them to call our food pantry and make an appointment at 308-635-3089. We don’t want anyone to leave without food. “
Ochoa said the volunteers and staff distributed 275 boxes with fresh food such as fruits, vegetables, milk and meat along with half a gallon of milk. Last week, they served 424 people.
Volunteers included members of the basketball and wrestling team from Gering High School. Basketball Head Coach Kyle Cotton said the team liked to do voluntary projects for the summer, and they heard about the opportunities from parents.
“With everything that’s happened, we haven’t been able to get out very much this summer, but it’s good to give back,” he said.
Many who waited in line did not want to be identified, citing the stigma of receiving food aid, but some expressed frustration with the process.
“I wish there was a sign, you know, so we don’t have to wait for no reason,” one woman said.
Alicia Molina, who waited half an hour before being turned down at the end of the call, said getting food help helped her family.
“Without childcare, children are at home all the time, and they eat more at home, so this helps us feed everyone,” he said.