A line of well over 100 cars stretched out of a back parking lot at the Levy Center this morning, down Mulford Street, and around the corner onto Dodge Avenue, all for a free box of fresh produce.

“Some of them showed up at 7 a.m. to be the first in line,” said Shawn Iles, of Interfaith Action of Evanston. The group co-sponsored the event with the City of Evanston. The Greater Chicago Food Depository provided the food.

“What does it say about society.” Iles asked, “that people are willing to stay in line for hours for a box of food?”

Food distribution outside the Levy Center.

In addition to produce, sometimes the box includes milk and meat, or even paper goods such as toilet paper. It all depends on what the Food Depository has available.

“It helps a lot,” said a woman named Helena, who had made it to near the front of the line by around 10. Helena, who did not want to give her last name, said the produce goes to feed the four people in her family.

The produce distribution is not new. Iles said he’s been doing the second-Tuesday-of-the-month event for eight years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has mandated some changes. In previous years, people could walk up and choose the produce they wanted.

Now, with the exception of a small walk-up line, most of the produce is packed in boxes by volunteers and then loaded into the cars of those who have been waiting.

Joey Rodger is one of those volunteers, showing up “because it’s something helpful to do for the community.”

The distribution usually helps about 275 families each event. Anyone can pick up food, as long as they are willing to wait in line.

Rodger said the volunteers feel good about helping others, and those receiving the food are extremely appreciative.

“At some level,” Rodger said, “we are all in this together.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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