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Food bank brings the pantry to the people in Charles City

  • Local church group volunteers and Northeast Iowa Food Bank volunteers help load up boxes of food to about 120 households worth of people in Charles City Wednesday afternoon. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Local church group volunteers and Northeast Iowa Food Bank volunteers help load up boxes of food to about 120 households worth of people in Charles City Wednesday afternoon. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Cars line up to receive boxes of food from the Northeast Iowa Food Bank mobile pantry Wednesday afternoon in Charles City. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Cars line up to receive boxes of food from the Northeast Iowa Food Bank mobile pantry Wednesday afternoon in Charles City. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Local church group volunteers and Northeast Iowa Food Bank volunteers help load up boxes of food to about 120 households worth of people in Charles City Wednesday afternoon. Press photo by Bob Steenson

By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

More than 5,000 meals were distributed in about an hour Wednesday as two trucks from the Northeast Iowa Food Bank made a “mobile pantry” stop in Charles City.

People started queuing up almost an hour before the scheduled distribution was to begin at noon in the parking lot behind Messiah’s Food Pantry, which is currently closed because of coronavirus concerns.

Volunteers from several local churches as well as others helped the folks from the food bank, carrying the boxes of non-frozen and frozen food from the trucks, loading them into the passing vehicles and directing traffic.

Sister Diana Blong, pastoral associate at Immaculate Conception Church who helped organize the local volunteers, said 97 vehicles went through the line, serving 116 households and 241 individuals.

“The people were really appreciative to get the food they needed,” she said.

Sister Diana said she talked to a number of the volunteers who remarked what a wonderful way it was to be of service.

Bryan Helleso, marketing manager for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, said the distribution represents about 5,400 meals given away.

The food bank trucks were staged next to each other at the corner of the parking lot with their rear doors wide open.

Once the distribution began, the line of vehicles weaved back and forth through the rows of the parking lot, heading toward Riverside Drive where people were first checked for income eligibility then given their boxes of food.

Helleso said people received cereal, staple dry goods, ready-to-drink meals and non-dairy milk in their non-frozen boxes, and fish sticks, pork loin, veggie fries and other items in their frozen food boxes.

Sister Diana said people were also given a small treat at the end of the line — a bag of fortune cookies.

She said inside the bags was a slip of paper that included this prayer: “During this time when we can’t physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways to be the big embrace of God to one another. Amen.”

Helleso said another “pop-up pantry” will likely be held in Charles City next month, but the details are still being worked out.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank, based in Waterloo, provides food and grocery products to about 200 nonprofit organizations and programs, including Messiah’s Food Pantry in Charles City, that assist the hungry and those in need of food assistance.

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