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480 fresh food boxes distributed to Dawson County families
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Volunteers load boxes of fresh produce into a family's car during the Dawson County Family Connection's food distribution drive on Monday June 8. - photo by Erica Jones

On Monday June 8, Dawson County Family Connection partnered with Dawson County Schools and USDA Farmers to Families Food Box to bring free boxes of fresh produce to Dawson County residents. 

Nancy Stites, Dawson County Family Connection Coordinator, explained that her group had been working hand-in-hand with the school system to organize and execute the distribution. 

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Any Dawson County resident who showed up to the junior high school was given a free 20 pound box of fresh fruits and vegetables. - photo by Erica Jones

“I got the information from the school system with a list of possible distributors so I started making calls until I found a distributor who could deliver food to us,” Stites said. “And I’m so thankful for the school system for letting us use the junior high school for the pickup location.”

The distribution was scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. on Monday and operate until the boxes ran out or until 6 p.m., but the truck delivering the food arrived earlier than scheduled so the distribution was able to start early.

“We got a whole truckload — we weren’t gonna do that originally, but in order to get them here on a particular day with a short amount of lead time the distributor said he could promise us a day with a whole truckload, so we said we’d take it,” Stites said. “And then the truck got here early so it started out a little hectic but it calmed down quickly.”

The truck delivered 480 boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, and all of the boxes had been picked up by Dawson County families before 3 p.m. 

According to Stites, volunteers from all over the community came out to help with greeting residents and loading the boxes of food into their vehicles. 

“It’s just been so delightful to work with the school system and so many other community members,” Stites said. “Our neighbors, our friends — and places like the senior center; they came out to get boxes too.”

Signs directed drivers where to pull up their cars, and volunteers loaded the food boxes into the vehicles without the drivers having to even get out. 

In addition to the 20-pound boxes of fruits and vegetables, drivers were given a packet containing information on another food drive coming up on Saturday June 13, information on the 2020 census and a list of contact information for mental health providers for anyone who may need help in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Volunteers from the Dawson County School System, Dawson County Family Connection and other community groups helped load the food boxes into citizens' cars so the drivers wouldn't have to get out of their vehicles. - photo by Erica Jones

The food distribution was open to anyone in Dawson County, with no paperwork or registration required beforehand. 

“We figured we’d just do it the easiest way, open to everybody,” Stites said. “And Sabrina from the school system put a lot of work into calling families ahead of time to let them know about it.”

Sabrina Graves, school social worker for Dawson County Schools, said that she personally reached out to the families within the school system who she knew needed the food the most. 

“We know that there’s a need in our community, and right now with everything we have families that usually don’t need who are in need,” Graves said. “So we sent individual emails and made individual calls. We’d gotten a lot of feedback from parents that their food stamps request is backlogged or their unemployment checks are backlogged, so we’re really happy to be able to do this — it’s not that much, but it’s something.”

With the distribution being as successful as it was, the goal is to make it a regular occurrence starting in July, according to Graves.

“We’re gonna do it every week in July, so be on the lookout on social media for times and places,” Graves said. “We’re thinking that it’s probably going to pick up now that everybody is aware of it.”