Cars, vans and pickups wound their way through the parking lot at Madison Elementary School early Monday afternoon as area residents picked up their monthly food parcels from Feeding South Dakota volunteers.
At the head of the line, a Feeding South Dakota truck was parked near the school's playground, and volunteers were loading boxes filled with food into waiting vehicles. According to Jennifer Stensaas, Feeding South Dakota's communications coordinator, the truck delivered food parcels to 135 families living in the Madison area.
In late March due to COVID-19 concerns, Feeding South Dakota officials closed the organization's food pantries in Sioux Falls and Rapid City and instead distribute food boxes drive-thru-style at certain locations in those cities. The organization also discontinued its food backpack program for children.
However, Feeding South Dakota continues to maintain its mobile food pantry program, distributing food to residents in scores of counties on a monthly basis. Feeding South Dakota changed the mobile food pantry program so the food was packed into boxes and bags and distributed in a "drive-thru" manner. The new distribution method was chosen to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In Madison, the distributions are scheduled at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of each month -- typically at a location on the city's south side. But those sites are difficult to drive to this month due to ongoing construction along Washington Ave.
Stensaas, who works in Sioux Falls, said the monthly food parcels include canned fruit, vegetables, soup and beans; spaghetti sauce; pasta; granola bars; and other nonperishable items.
Feeding South Dakota also continues to assist seniors in eastern and central South Dakota who receive monthly food aid through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, more commonly called the Senior Box Program.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding South Dakota has taken steps to improve the safety of staff, volunteers and neighbors in need. Officials have asked anyone who is not feeling well, having a fever or dealing with a persistent cough not to enter Feeding South Dakota facilities.
The organization is also recruiting volunteers, particularly healthy persons living in the Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls areas.
"We really rely on volunteer support," Stensaas said. "Our volunteers put together the emergency boxes, and that work takes plenty of hands."
Healthy persons in Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls areas are encouraged to register to volunteer online at feeding southdakota.org/volunteer. Feeding South Dakota also accepts volunteer help from persons living in other communities. Stensaas said persons wanting to volunteer their time can contact Megan Myers, statewide volunteer coordinator, at megan.myers.org or at 605-335-0364, ext. 124.