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Farm Wagon program brings fresh produce to hungry

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 8:02 am

On a recent Friday afternoon 60 people stood in line in the parking lot of St. Peter Catholic Church on Fort Wayne's near south side.

They were holding empty boxes and bags, shifting from foot to foot and stamping their feet. A truck from the Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana was parked in front of them. Every Friday at 2 p.m. the truck arrives, opens its back door, and distributes fresh produce, bread and juice to the waiting lines of hungry people.

It's the kind of scene you would expect to see in a disaster relief area, but this scene plays itself out week after week, month after month, year after year here in Fort Wayne.

The distribution is a part of the Community Harvest Food Bank's Farm Wagon program, which brings fresh produce to the hungry of the area, who couldn't afford it otherwise.

A woman Standing in line who recently arrived here from Massachusetts said she didn't know what she and her family would do without the free service.

“This is a good service for people; times are hard,” volunteer Selena Ellington said.

She and two of her friends come down weekly to lend a hand with the distribution when needed. Mary Fountain, one of her friends said many of the people standing in the line recently lost their jobs and have nowhere else to turn.

In 2012 the Farm Wagon served 156,908 individuals. The program originated in October 1999 and has been traveling weekly routes throughout Allen, Noble, Whitley, Adams, Steuben, LaGrange, Huntington, Wells, and DeKalb counties ever since.

Claudia Johnson, Community Harvest spokeswoman, said in January they served 6,165 individuals.

“The drivers pull their loads and load their trucks when they get to work at 7:30 a.m. and are on the road quickly thereafter. They may be picking up loads not related to their Farm Wagon distributions that day and bringing them back to the warehouse during the day, as well. Transportation is very efficient, so there is no backtracking,” Johnson said.

Every weekday there are two trucks on the road. One hands out food supplies right off the back while the other delivers to facilities that distribute from inside their own buildings.

Such was the case at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 3404 Chestnut, on a recent Friday morning. The Farm Wagon stops there the second and fourth Friday of each month. The church is just off New Haven Avenue on Fort Wayne's southeast side. As volunteers placed potatoes, tomatoes, bread, and lettuce on the foldout tables, people waiting for the food were invited to sit in the chapel, out of the cold, until the distribution started.

Although none of those waiting wished to give their names a few commented on the distribution. They said its good quality produce and they just couldn't afford it otherwise.

“It's refreshing to have fresh produce,” an older woman said, as she waited for the distribution to start.

Theresa Stapleton, church administrator who also runs their food bank, said they have been doing the distributions since 2008. Stapleton said the number of people who come for the food varies, but they generally serve around 100 families.