Wyma McMath smiles as a front-end loader takes another pallet full of food boxes out of a semi-truck trailer with a long line of cars rolling through a giveaway event.

The Northside Assembly of God churchgoer helps coordinate free food giveaway events at the church that bring hundreds of people lined in cars along side roads to get some assistance. She said helping people impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought joy to her and more than 20 volunteers helping with the Farmers to Families food giveaways because they see a lot of people in need.

“It’s a giveaway — but there’s a need,” McMath said.

Anyone going through the lines gets a gallon of milk and one box that contains dairy products and vegetables. The event doesn’t have any requirements based on income, age, or preregistration.

McMath said cars usually line up in the hundreds for the food giveaways at Northside Assembly and the majority of people participating thank the volunteers at the event.

“We’ve seen people come through and they’re so nice,” McMath said, adding that some even break down in tears.

The USDA purchases and distributes food products through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Then, national, regional and local distributors partner with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to offer assistance to areas impacted by closures of food services.

As of Monday, contractors through the program delivered more than 151 million boxes nationwide.

Organizers said they hope to continue offering such events in the future if the USDA program continues.

McMath said some people coming through the lines in McAlester told volunteers that they were desperate for some food assistance and thanked them for putting on the event.

She said Monday’s shipment through Go Fresh included 1,152 combo kits — adding that sometimes the shipment includes 800 dairy boxes and 800 fruits/vegetables boxes.

She said each car through the line is only allowed one box until the volunteers run out of supplies.

Organizers have said more than 600 families have been helped at previous events.

Coordinators cancelled a Farmers to Families food giveaway in McAlester in February due to a historic winter storm, but several previous events provided free food for hundreds of people.

McMath said she is happy to have helped people of all backgrounds get food assistance during a challenging year — and she hopes to continue helping as long as there is a need.

She thanked volunteers for helping place boxes in vehicles during near-triple-digit heat in the summer and freezing rain in the winter.

But she said helping others in need is more important than having good weather.

“It’s all worth it,” McMath said with a smile.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com.

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