Drive-through food bank in the Southern Tier

Corning Bureau

WETM-TV 18 News will post positive stories from around the Twin Tiers on this page daily. 

BATH, NY (WETM) – Social distancing is the new normal, so the Southern Tier Food Bank had to think creatively to get groceries to people, and that’s when they thought of low-contact drive-up food distribution.

Hundreds of cars lined up at the Steuben Fairgrounds for their groceries. Over 450-people registered ahead of time to pick up fresh produce, meats, dairy and more.

Many people signed up for more than one household to help others who might not make the trip.

“We also have an option to pick up for folks,” Natasha Thompson, CEO & President of the Southern Tier Food Bank. “I know that the first vehicle we served today was picking up for five-people who had been registered, but they lack access to transportation.”

Thompson recognized that simply getting to the event would be difficult for some people.

“That is a huge issue here in the Southern Tier is access to transportation, and we wanted to make sure that even is people lack access to a vehicle that they could still benefit from this program,” said Thompson.

People drove up to volunteers with their windows pulled up to create as much distance as possible.

The volunteers would then write on their windshield how many orders that they were there to pick up.

When their car approached the front of the line, they would pop their trunk open. At several checkpoints, the volunteers would take turns loading the vehicles with groceries.

People in line were grateful.

“It’s wonderful, I have never heard of anything like this,” said Chuck Narrow, a Bath resident who said that this was his first time needing to receive assistance from the food bank.

“This is our first time here, so this is our first experience so it’s great,” said Narrow.

The food bank had help passing out to food.

“We’ve got volunteers here from Pro-action helping to load the food right into people’s vehicles and that way we are limiting social contact,” said Thompson.

“We are seeing people in situations that they have never seen themselves in before, out of work, and needing help,” said Amey Rusak Pro Action Associate Executive Director. “Right now, in addition to what we are always doing, we are looking at basic needs, and that’s why we wanted to get involved today.”

The experience was bittersweet for the volunteers and workers.

“It makes me feel good and feel sad at the same time, but I’m just really glad that we are able to be apart of this today and help,” said Thompson.

“It’s good to be able to help but it is sad to know that the need is so great and we anticipate that the need is going to continue to increase,” Rusak said.

But for the people picking up the supplies were grateful.

“It’s unbelievable, we can stretch our food budget and some things you can’t get in the grocery store,” said Narrow.

This is just one of many community food distributions that will help in the Southern Tier.

“Our plan is to have these types of distribution throughout the region and we are looking at other locations across the six counties service area,” Thompson shared.

For residents of Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, Tompkins, Tioga, and Broome counties, you can find locations in your community at Click “FIND FOOD” and enter your county and the type of site you are looking for. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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