Vehicles kept coming Saturday morning as volunteers loaded each with a box of food.

Within two and a half hours, all food boxes were gone, said Dave Howell, who oversaw the distribution through his Dream Seeds ministry.

"We had to turn people away, because we ran out of food," Howell said. "That's very hard to take."

Scenes of people lining up for food relief have increased over the past few weeks. At least three food box giveaways are scheduled this week.

Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma distributed 3.9 million pounds of food in April, 50 percent more than the previous average monthly distribution of 2.6 million pounds, said Greg Raskin, communications manager. Community Food Bank works with 350 partner agencies across eastern Oklahoma.

"Our partners are saying 50 to 70 percent of the people are first-time clients," Raskin said.

Community Food Bank will supply food boxes for the City of Muskogee Foundation's weekly food distributions, which begin Thursday.

Earlier this month, the foundation approved expenditures of up to $84,520 to partner with Neighbors Building Neighborhoods and Muskogee and Hilldale school districts to provide the food. Boxes will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Howell said he worked with Go Fresh produce distributors of Tulsa and the NorthStar Bridge food distribution ministry on Saturday's food distribution.

People were hungry even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, he said.

"Most people are hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck for most people anyway," he said. "But especially for workers that have been affected, that couldn't work in the restaurants, that couldn't work in the factories. They hurt a lot."

Howell said he knows of people who have waited five or six weeks to receive unemployment compensation.

"They're hungry," he said. "It's really a challenging time for a lot of people."

Go Fresh has worked with scores churches and agencies, including Catholic Charities. The produce company is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers to Families Food Box Program. 

"Just this week alone we've had another 75 requests," said Alex Stodghill, Go Fresh sales and marketing director. "This is a wonderful program that the government has put out. It's an amazing program not only to put money in farmers' pockets, but to help families in times of need right now."

Stodghill said the company has shipped almost 700,000 food boxes in a seven-state area.

Howell said Go Fresh is "really working overtime trying to get food out to everybody in the different communities."

Upcoming Food Giveaways

• Noon Tuesday, parking lots of Grace Episcopal Church and Antioch Temple of Hope, Sixth Street and Broadway.

• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Saint Francis Hospital East, 2900 N. Main St., sponsored by Catholic Charities.

• 3 p.m. Thursday, and each Thursday through July 30. Hatbox Hangars, enter at Border Avenue at South Hatbox Road. 

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