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Demand still strong for free food at Salvation Army, City Church

By Howard B. Owens

The distribution of free food for local residents may not be grabbing the headlines the way it did at the start of the pandemic, but the programs haven't stopped and the need has not subsided, according to leaders at two organizations involved in handing out bags and boxes of vegetables, dairy products, and canned goods.

"We've been feeding 500 families a week," said Ryan Macdonald, a pastor at City Church, which conducts free food distributions on Wednesday mornings at St. Anthony's on Liberty Street. "There's a lot of need out there. It's sad."

While The Salvation Army is not giving out as much food as it did when the pandemic first started when it utilized well-publicized drive-thru distribution days at Northgate Church, its three-day-week allocation at its location on East Main Street is still exceeding the pre-pandemic demand for food, said Todd Rapp, the local coordinator of emergency services.

"We're still seeing a significant need," Rapp said.

It's been a year since the first COVID-19 case was officially recorded in the United States, and 11 months since the first case was recorded locally.

People are out of work and are worried about paying their bills, both Macdonald and Rapp said.

"People are scared," Macdonald said. "They're scared to go out and that's hurting the economy."

Neither program requires recipients to provide financial information and is open to all residents who feel they need the assistance. 

The Salvation Army, 529 E Main St., offers drive-up pick up on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you want to receive food, drive up, call the phone number on the sign, and somebody will assist you.

City Church's distribution at St. Anthony's starts at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and lasts from one to two hours, depending on food availability.

Rapp said The Salvation Army also has a program to assist people with housing and he wanted to remind people that even though there is an eviction moratorium in place, tenants are still obligated for their rent. He said the Army has assisted a few local landlords who need food assistance because some tenants haven't been paying their rent.

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