DECATUR -- Barb Jones wasn't surprised to see a line had already formed by the time she showed up for Crossing Healthcare's Healthy Food Distribution at 3 p.m. -- two hours before the food was scheduled to be given out.

Jones was expecting a big turnout, and she was right. By 5 p.m., the line started at the Crossing sign and extended down Central Avenue to Warren Street. The sun beat down on a crowd carrying empty boxes and laundry baskets, which some put on their heads to help block the sun.

"It's always like this. It's Decatur," said Michael Milam, who had also been in line since 3 p.m. with his father-in-law John Mize.

Jones said she didn't mind the wait.

"This is a blessing for everyone," Jones said. "I always expect there to be a crowd."

Crossing teamed with the Central Illinois Foodbank and the Northeast Community Fund to bring in 13,000 pounds of food. Crossing employees donated both their money, to help buy the food, and time, to help distribute it.

"The need in the community is great, especially with the cost associated with kids going back to school," Crossing Director Tanya Andricks said. "Food insecurity is a real problem here. Times are tight."

Northeast Community Fund Director Jerry Pelz said the demand isn't going away anytime soon

"We have new people every month. We had 91 people we'd never served before last month," Pelz said. "When you see lines like this, in this heat, here for something like this, you know there's a need."

This was Peggy Johnson's first time going to a food bank. She's diabetic and medicine ate up much of her money for the first part of the month.

"I needed food. This is really helping me out," said Johnson, who rolled a cart holding a box in which she collected fruit, corn, chicken, milk and eggs.

Milam had grapes, apples, tomatoes, potatoes and corn on the cob in his crate. He passed on the eggplant. By the time he got the milk, eggs and chicken in the crate, it was a struggle to pick it up and get it in his trunk.

"We try to hit up the food pantry when we can to help out our family," Milam said.

Crossing Healthcare Medical Director Dana Ray thanked those in line for being patient and said Crossing is planning to have healthy food distributions on a regular basis going forward. This one was part of Crossing's celebration of National Health Center Week.

Before food was distributed, Andricks walked through the crowd and talked to those in attendance. She estimated 75 percent of them were Crossing patients.

"One family had just bought all the school supplies but then didn't have enough money this week for food, so the timing was perfect for them," Andricks said.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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