Long lines for free food in Thetford

THETFORD, Vt. (WCAX) Cars began lining up in Thetford as early as 6 a.m. on Thursday, as families looked to secure food for their loved ones and friends during desperate times.

"Food is slack, money is slack, this is a big appreciation," said Todd Bean of Strafford.

The cars driving through the Thetford Academy parking lot may have all looked different, but the need was the same.

"It helps us out a great deal with the economic times and the financial situation everyone is in right now," said Jamie Corliss of Chelsea.

The state has been organizing food giveaways like this around the region through the federally funded Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Demand has outstripped supplies and long lines have added to frustrations during already stressful times.

"It's been a challenge, as we've learned, so we are learning from each of the events that comes before us," said Mariah Whitcomb, Thetford's emergency management director.

And that experience is clearly paying off. In speed comparable to a NASCAR team on pit road, milk, poultry, produce and cheese were packed into trunks and then repeated over and over again.

"I'm really blessed to live where I live, have all the help that we have, but I have to say, this is all National Guard and AOT that are really doing the hard work today," Whitcomb said.

"They signed up to serve and being able to serve Vermonters is very important for them," said Brig. Gen. Gregory Knight, the commander of the Vermont National Guard.

In many cases, those receiving the food were also picking up for loved ones, neighbors and the elderly.

"For me, that's really representative of Vermont. Folks are taking care of each other and that is really good to see," Knight said.

Teacher Yvette Bohman was there making sure her students don't go hungry.

"I'm picking up for a couple families at my school who don't have a vehicle right now, and it is just overwhelming to see all this love and support," Bohman said.

Some of the cars had license plates from New Hampshire. And yes, the line was long. But no one was turned away.

"You just had to wait and have patience," Corliss said. "That was all there was to it."

"We moved right along and there was as many cars in front of us as behind us," Bean said.

In the first two hours, 350 cars rolled through the event. And National Guard soldiers said they would stay until every last family got the food they need.

Town officials say well over 600 vehicles were counted at the event.

The Vermont Food Bank is holding another food giveaway on Friday at the Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park. It goes from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

VTrans officials say you can expect delays along VT 15 Friday as the giveaway could create abnormal congestion.