Grocery giveaway draws in hundreds of cars

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MADISON, Ala. – Local churches, Madison City Schools, and one food-centered nonprofit have partnered with the Rocket City Trash Pandas for Madison’s first mass grocery giveaway of the year.

Dozens of volunteers unloaded shopping carts filled with groceries into cars during Saturday’s mobile food pantry at Toyota Field.

Jason Parks is the senior pastor at Refuge Church. He said they’ve been involved with these food giveaways for years, but they have never reached this scale.

“We started with quarterly distributions, but because of the pandemic, and because of the great need, we started doing these on a monthly basis,” he said. “This is the largest amount of food we’ve ever brought in to a distribution.”

Volunteers distributed 40,000 pounds of food. They fed 450 families, but organizers said that would not feed everyone in the line.

“There’s hundreds of cars here before we start, and the reality is there will probably 600 or 700 cars that come through today, but we’re only going to be able to feed 450 families,” Pastor Parks said.

Groceries are provided by a Tennessee-based partner, One Generation Away. Co-founder Elaine Whitney says they’ve seen their numbers skyrocket across the 3 states they serve.

“We would do 200 to 250 families and since the pandemic, we’re doing between 400 and 700 families each weekend, so it has grown, and you think it would be getting easier but it just seems like more and more people are in need of food,” Whitney said.

The last groceries were given out a little over an hour into the start time, forcing organizers to turn away around 150 cars.

“It’s so sad to me, but it shows you the need, there is so much need,” she said.

Pastor Parks said Refuge Church has confirmed with One Gen Away that they can continue hosting grocery giveaways like this for the Tennessee Valley once a month for the rest of 2021.

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