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Photos: Thousands Flood Rentschler Field For Food Relief During Coronavirus Pandemic

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Volunteer Tiina Hyvonen of Hartford stacks 5-pound bags of potatoes. Most motorists driving through kept their windows up, and volunteers loaded food directly into car trunks.

Thousands lined up to collect food donations at Rentschler Field in East Hartford last week. Foodshare started the drive-through food bank on Monday and decided to extend the program for two more weeks due to an “overwhelming response” from the community. 

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Foodshare workers say that the majority of people seeking help are new to food insecurity -- a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and state mandates that have shuttered many businesses to stop the spread of the virus.

Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Volunteer Bill Cole of Vernon pushes a pallet of potatoes off a truck loaded with food supplies. Foodshare said that on the first day of the drive it distributed 5,000 more pounds of food than it expected.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Miguel Velazquez unloads a pallet of onions off a truck. He usually runs Foodshare's operation at the Regional Market in Hartford, but the organization had to move its distribution site to Rentschler Field in East Hartford because of increased demand.

Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Volunteers load bags of apples into cars that pass through the food drive. Lines started to form around 6 a.m. on Wednesday -- over two hours before the bank opened -- but workers added a second distribution line to speed up the process. Foodshare workers said they want the public to know that they won't run out of food.

Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Volunteer Bill Cole watches as a forklift begins to unload a pallet of bread at the Rentschler Field distribution site. Foodshare had to purchase mass amounts of food to keep up with demand during the COVID-19 outbreak -- but Foodshare CEO Jason Jakubowski says the organization will be able to continue its services with community and donor support.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Brian and Claudette Whaples said they both lost their jobs in the restaurant industry due to COVID-19 restrictions and came to the food bank because they've been struggling to make ends meet. "It helps," Brian said. "We don’t go out to eat. We cook at home." Claudette said she has been making masks in her spare time.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Volunteer Michelle Zelesky from Bolton cradles a cabbage while waiting for the next car to pull up. "I was just sitting at home and feeling like I needed to do something. I wanted to come out and help any way I can," she said.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
A volunteer hands a bag of potatoes to a passenger through a car window. Foodshare workers say that many of the people who have come to the food bank hadn't needed help with groceries until the COVID-19 crisis.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Kimberly Palmer Davis of Hartford heard about the food bank on Instagram. She still has a job as a home aide -- but she lost her other job at the XL Center. "I have a 15-year-old that eats all day, and she's not in school," she said. "So I want to make sure we have enough. And it definitely helps."

Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Over 650 cars passed through the food bank line on Wednesday in the first hour of operation. Foodshare officials say they served about 1,000 people a day last week.


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