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Fighting hunger

Food distribution event draws hundreds to fairgrounds

Photo by Deb Gau Volunteers unload gallons of milk and boxes of food into vehicles during a drive-up food distribution event at the Lyon County fairgrounds Tuesday afternoon. Enough food packages were on hand for 700 households, organizers said.

MARSHALL — The cars snaked around the Lyon County fairgrounds, and down Fairgrounds Road almost all the way to Highway 19. But the line was moving steadily, as volunteers helped load vehicles with cartons of food and gallon jugs of milk.

Organizers said they started giving out food early, partly to head off potential traffic jams on the highway.

“Some people had actually been here since noon,” said Margaret Palan of United Community Action Partnership, one of the people helping to run the free drive-up food distribution event in Marshall on Tuesday. The distribution event was the third one that Second Harvest Heartland, UCAP and United Way of Southwest Minnesota have organized in Marshall.

Palan Said the distribution events can help people who might be struggling without other forms of food assistance. “A lot of these folks might not use the food shelf, or be eligible for SNAP,” she said.

A pair of semi trucks parked at the fairgrounds Tuesday contained enough food packages for 700 households. “We wanted to make sure we had plenty,” Palan said. Each household could receive a gallon of milk, as well as a box containing vegetables, a package of chicken and other nutritious food.

Two previous food distribution events were held last year, at Southwest Minnesota State University. The events drew hundreds of people from around the area — something that could pose a traffic problem at the university while classes were in session.

Palan said organizers were trying to think of an alternate location for the event, and approached Lyon County about the fairgrounds.

“They have been awesome to work with,” Palan said of the Lyon County board and staff. Area partners and volunteers made the event possible.

Palan estimated around 25 volunteers were helping to direct traffic at the fairgrounds and load food into vehicles. They also distributed care packages with items like a reusable grocery bag and food container. The bags were packed by volunteers from North Risk Partners, she said.

On Tuesday, vehicles were arriving steadily enough to keep volunteers busy, in spite of a chilly day and light snow falling.

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