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PHOTOS: Hundreds seek and find free food in Orange City

People of all ages, employed and unemployed, showed up in force at the start of the last weekend in January at Pfc. Emory L. Bennett Veterans Memorial Park in Orange City to receive life-sustaining food.

“What does this tell you?” a single mother who works at AdventHealth in DeLand asked, as she waited patiently to drive up to the distribution point.

Obviously, the answer to her question is, there is an unrelenting and growing need on the part of many in West Volusia and elsewhere to claim extra edibles to supplement what they can purchase with their hard-earned wages. To that end, Backpack Buddies, a nonprofit organization founded by Orange City Vice Mayor Kelli Marks, arranged the Jan. 29 distribution of food for the needy.

“This is the first time I’ve ever come,” the driver, who preferred to remain anonymous, said. “Anything helps. It won’t go to waste.”

The Backpack Buddies giveaway of some 20,000 pounds of food included not only canned goods and other nonperishables, but also frozen chicken and fresh produce. Second Harvest Food Bank provided much of the day’s food volume.

After the food stock was exhausted, Marks said, she and her 30-some volunteers had counted a total of 317 vehicles passing through and driving away with a fresh supply of food. Those vehicles represented 1,147 people whose need for food was met, including 450 children.

What about those who were in line when the food supply ran out?

“We give them information to come to our warehouse, so that they don’t do without,” Marks said.

Marks established Backpack Buddies in 2019 to combat hunger among children attending Orange City Elementary School. Since that time, the need for food has increased, and Backpack Buddies has expanded its outreach to include families.

“This is a community. You need to take care of your people,” a woman attending the food giveaway said.

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