BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Volunteers with the Fort Madison Food Pantry helped hand out 96 boxes of free Prairie Farms dairy products in less than a half an hour Thursday morning.
The program was announced earlier this week and even before 9 a.m. area residents were lined up in the Holy Trinity Catholic High parking lot to receive the free boxes.
The giveaways will take place on Thursdays through July 2nd and Lin Cramer, president of the food pantry board said next week the supply will increase to 400 boxes.
Each box contains two gallons of 2% milk, two individual servings of chocolate and strawberry milk each, cottage cheese, french onion dip, sour cream and cream cheese.’
“Just heard from the Pantry volunteers that the dairy boxes were all given out in the first 30 minutes,” Cramer wrote in an email to Pen City Current this morning.
“As our maiden voyage, we had no idea there would be so much interest! Next week Prairie Farms will send 400 boxes so there should be enough for everyone!”
Cramer apologize for the pantry’s underestimation of the desire and need for the products.
“We started signing people up early because when volunteer started showing up here at 8:30 a.m. and we already had people lined up. We took information down because we think at some point we’re going to have report to somebody how much product we handed out,” said volunteer Vicky Lundeby.
“We counted over 200 people out there and we, unfortunately, had to turn people away.”
Jesse Schrader, the Prairie Farms rep on site said the boxes are the fruit of federal agriculture pandemic stimulus.
“My understanding is had to do with $19 billion stimulus where I believe $16 billion went directly to farmers and $3 billion went to buy ag products so they didn’t have to dump them,” Schrader said.
He said the contents were determined by the USDA and Prairie Farms.
“It’s a mix between USDA and Prairie Farms as to what goes in it. The boxes come from Peoria.”
Schrader said past events he’s been a part of were food pantry volunteers coming and picking up the supplies they needed. This was the first time he’s seen actual customers come to the site and pick up the products to take home.
“I wasn’t surprised we got rid of it, but I was surprised at how fast we got it out. This was the first one I’ve done where actual consumers came up and took it home,” Schrader said.
Volunteers at the site said there needs to be better social distancing efforts because people got out of cars and just came up to the truck. They said next week, people will need to line up on the sidewalk next to the high school and maintain distance.
“It was obviously an amazing success and there was a lot of need out there,” said Shirley Gabel, the food pantry’s food purchasing director. “We felt bad for the people who got turned away, but we’re gonna have more on hand next week.”