Food line: Quarterly giveaway draws huge crowd to Civic Center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Needy families saw a clear case of supply and demand Thursday.
Hundreds of people lined up for the quarterly food distribution at the Civic Center, and the crowd eventually overwhelmed the supplies available.
Only chicken was left for people toward the end of the four-hour-plus distribution.
In the morning, the line of people waiting for food, which comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is distributed by the Altrusa Club of Salisbury, extended along South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from the Civic Center to the Salisbury Post Office.
“It was a huge turnout,” Altrusa Club member Sandy Reitz said. “… It reminded me of Christmas.”
Last December, the food distribution served 1,374 families. In March, the numbers were lower, though still considerable because of the current economic conditions in Rowan County.
Unemployment in Rowan County has been about 13 percent.
The amount of food ordered is based largely on how many people show up for the previous distribution.
Reitz said club members, on seeing the numbers Thursday morning, were immediately concerned about running out of food before the end of the line could be served.
She and Terri Beck made visits to people in the line to forewarn them that the food could run out.
“It’s a terrible feeling, not being able to get all the food they expected to them,” Reitz said.
Canned food items were especially running out fast, Reitz said.
She expects there will be complaints from people who didn’t receive the whole gamut of staples, though she commended the attitudes of many who only received frozen chicken at the end.
“A lot of people would say, ‘There’s going to be a chicken in the pot tonight,’ ” Reitz said.
The club ended up with some leftover chicken, which was sent to Rowan Helping Ministries. Everything else was given away.
The club checked with its Department of Agriculture contact during the distribution to see if more food might be available, but there wasn’t.
Items available to the Rowan County families Thursday included cherry apple juice, chicken breasts, whole chickens, chicken legs, corn, grapefruit juice, macaroni, orange juice and peanut butter.
The food is given out to food stamp recipients and families meeting certain income guidelines.
About 85 people routinely help with the distribution.
The USDA contracts with the Department of Social Services and the food is delivered for distribution by the Altrusa Club, which has handled the task for 15 years.
The local distribution started years ago with the giving away of surplus cheese.