Volunteers with the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry started their Thursday morning unloading pallets of boxes off a Feeding America truck.
It was already snowing constantly as the maneuvered a forklift through the snow-covered parking lot.
More than a thousand 30-pound boxes sat in stacks in the parking lot while people waiting in cars lining the streets around the pantry.
“Cars were lined up quarter to 7:00,” said operations assistant Courtney Smith.
This is the first Feeding America truck to arrive at the pantry in 2021.
With the pantry closed to the public, Smith says these drive-thru food distributions are the only times they get to check in on people.
“We’re more than just food for people. We’re not getting our eyes on people. We’re not continuing that relationship. When they pull through here and we get to see them, it’s like another touchpoint,” said Smith.
The need for the boxes is definitely there.
In 2020, the RAFP got 23 semi-loads through the federal Farmers to Families program totaling more than 416,000 pounds of food, all distributed to local families.
Those truckloads put RAFP’s total food distribution for 2020 at more than one million pounds.
With the most recent renewal of the federal program, the food pantry will be able to do the distribution every Thursday in February.
The pantry limited boxes to one per household.
People could pick up two boxes if they were picking up for another person.