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Mobile food pantry rolls into Rugby

By Sue Sitter - | Dec 19, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Volunteers from the Rugby area help the Great Plains Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry distribute food Wednesday, Dec. 9.

No time of year is easy for those facing hunger, but a global pandemic has made this year’s holiday season especially difficult for many area families, say staff from the Great Plains Food Bank.

The Great Plains Food Bank’s mobile pantry rolled into Rugby Wednesday, Dec. 9. About 15 local volunteers greeted the semi truck and helped unload pallets of fresh produce, eggs and more in the NAPA Auto Parts parking lot on US Highway 2.

“This is a difficult time for a lot of people in our region and there are many people in our state seeking food assistance for the first time in their lives,” said Jared Slinde, communications director of the Great Plains Food Bank in an email. “Many of those are in Pierce County,” he added.

“Since March of this year, we have seen a 45 percent increase in need for food assistance and (of) those currently seeking food assistance, 25 percent are doing so for the first time,” Slinde said.

Zoe Absey came into town with the mobile food pantry from Fargo to coordinate the local distribution. She met with volunteers and guided a forklift driver as he unloaded the semi filled with enough food to help “around 300 families,” she said.

“We have fresh produce, dairy, eggs; we might even have some chicken,” Absey said. “Those are carrots and apples,” she said, pointing out a pallet stacked high with shrink-wrapped packages of veggies sitting atop a cardboard bin.

“We stock the truck really well,” Absey said, adding workers at the food bank “are very efficient.”

The mobile food pantry last visited Rugby in August. “We go to different areas every quarter,” Absey explained. “We come to one particular place (such as Rugby) every couple of quarters.”

Absey said North Dakotans should know “hunger is a thing. We’re an agricultural state and I think sometimes people don’t think hunger exists in our state, but it is a thing, and hunger doesn’t discriminate.”

“You can’t necessarily see hunger all the time just by looking at someone,” she added.

“Giving to your local food pantry and food drives is really important to help your neighbors out, especially in this difficult time,” she added.

About 12 volunteers from local organizations such as the Rugby Chamber of Commerce stacked pallets and filled boxes near the food pantry’s semi truck. Other workers directed traffic in two growing lines of cars, each waiting their turn to receive packages of food.

Absey said the Great Plains Food Bank’s mobile pantries “are definitely seeing more people attending them” than in past years.

“Around the holidays, there’s an increase in demand,” Absey noted. “I’ve only been working for the food bank since May,” she added. “I’ve been working through the COVID pandemic and the numbers of people needing food have just been going up.”

Slinde said the food bank estimated “more than 12,000 pounds of food” would be distributed to the Rugby area Dec. 9.

The Pierce County Food Pantry also provides food assistance to area households. Food pantry organizer Vonnie Degenstein said the pantry plans to distribute holiday food baskets to 100 families Saturday, Dec. 19. “We have enough help to put the baskets together, and we can’t work in a large group because of COVID,” she said. “But we do need help to deliver the baskets,” Degenstein added. “The deliveries are done outdoors to homes, and they can be done safely.”

“We ask that volunteers meet at the food pantry at 10 a.m. Saturday the 19th,” she added.

The Pierce County Food Pantry is located at the Rugby Armory.

For more information on volunteering or receiving help from the Pierce County Food Pantry, call 776-5597.

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