GREENSBORO — About 10,000 people descended on a produce giveaway Wednesday, soberly reinforcing how much area families are struggling to make ends meet as the coronavirus crisis drags on.
The line of cars in the Daystar Church parking lot extended into the street — and beyond — for a chance to get produce donated by Foster-Caviness. The Greensboro company supplies restaurants, military bases and more than a 1,000 school cafeterias across North Carolina.
On Wednesday, it was concern, not commerce, that sent its trucks to Daystar.
Paul Lieb, the company’s president, helped keep things running smoothly while expressing his gratitude to volunteers who risked catching the respiratory disease to help others Wednesday.
“It’s pretty heartwarming to see the smiles on their faces,” Lieb said.
After Gov. Roy Cooper ordered schools closed and banned dine-in eating at restaurants in an attempt to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Foster-Caviness found itself with an unexpected surplus.
“We have a lot of product and a lot of inventory and thought the best thing to do was to donate it where it was needed,” Lieb said.
The giveaway was coordinated with the help of Out of the Garden Project, a local nonprofit that serves meals at Daystar Church and holds produce giveaways in neighborhoods where residents struggle to feed their families.
Foster-Caviness frequently works with nonprofits like Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, which serves 18 counties in the Piedmont Triad. The company donates anywhere from five to 15 pallets of food a week to Out of the Garden Project.
But Wednesday’s produce giveaway was the largest food donation Out of the Garden Project has ever received.
“This is more produce than we give out in an entire month. It’s just crazy,” said Don Milholin, Out of the Garden’s president.
By 10:30 a.m., pallet after pallet of potatoes, apples, lettuce, carrots, melons, oranges and pineapples were unloaded from four trucks. The nearly 50,000 pounds of food overran the church parking lot.
“There is everything from avocados to strawberries to blueberries to every vegetable you can name,” Milholin said.
Cars snaked all through the parking lot and out onto Merritt Drive well past the Patterson Street overpass. About 400 cars an hour made their way through the loading zone.
Jason Kempworth did a good job of keeping traffic moving as he waved his arms and yelled, “Come on down! The price is right!”
Kempworth, a Foster-Caviness employee, said he is no stranger to giving directions.
“I specialize in logistics and distribution, so I’m used to this,” he said.
Volunteers from Foster-Caviness and Daystar Church hustled to load boxes of produce into trunks and cargo areas. A pallet of eggs meant each family got a couple dozen of them.
Families also got fresh bread from the Panera chain and hot Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches.
The donations were a big help to Pamela Hinchee, who has four children and is unemployed.
“I’m a Lyft driver and I’m out of work because no one wants to ride,” said Hinchee, who added that her last fare was 10 days ago.
As Johnny Thomas and his wife waited in line, he said he was grateful for the food he would be able to put on his family’s table.
“We have a son that just got laid off,” Thomas said, “and they have three kids.”
Michelle Watkins, who is responsible for a family of four, was laid off by Guilford County Schools. She heard about the giveaway through Facebook.
“It’s just a godsend,” she said.