AUGUSTA — Mike Dietrich was one of the hundreds of people who received an 18-pound box of local food from the Farmers to Families event Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Dietrich, 49, said he has been living at the Best Western adjacent to the Augusta Civic Center while collecting general assistance and navigating government programs to collect food stamps and get into an apartment.

“I tried to kill myself on June 30,” Dietrich said. “When I came out (of the hospital), I didn’t have any place to go or any money at all.

“I’m getting food from general assistance, so I don’t really have any other food,” he added. “It will be very helpful.”

In total, 1,200 boxes of food, containing potato and dairy products from Pineland Farms, were distributed at Thursday’s event that was sponsored by the Augusta Food Bank.

Cars snaked down Community Drive and wrapped around a large parking lot, while masked volunteers dropped boxes into vehicles of attendees.

Augusta Food Bank Executive Director Bob Moore said earlier this week he anticipated a huge crowd but was shocked when 150 cars showed up an hour before the event started.

“It does definitely send a message that there still is a tremendous need out there,” he said. “My guess is, with some of the federal programs stopping, there is going to be more of a need.”

Moore said he is not worried about an increase in people needing assistance, because the food bank’s partners have been “wonderful” with which to work.

Erin Turner, 39, of Windsor, said she has been out of work since June and struggling to find a seasonal job to support her family of five. She said she hasn’t taken advantage of other assistance programs or food bank resources because she doesn’t know the details of them.

People distribute boxes of food Thursday in the Augusta Civic Center parking lot. Boxes included cheddar cheese, milk, and a bag each of whole and mashed potatoes. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“This was more widely advertised,” Turner said. “I don’t really know where to go all the time, so I think at least having it was well-advertised as this was would be helpful for people.”

When asked if there were other programs coming in the future, he said the food bank has been giving away excess food on Thursdays and a similar event to the Farmers to Families event could come “perhaps in the fall.” Moore said an event in partnership Good Shepherd Food Bank, dubbed “Food Mobile,” was canceled back in May due to the coronavirus pandemic, but may return in the future.

Farmers to Families is a program administrated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the department’s website, more than 50 million boxes have been distributed as part of the project and two rounds of funding have raised as much as $2.67 billion for the program.

There will be another Farmers to Families event in Waterville at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 11. The event is sponsored by the Elks Lodge and will take place near their lodge at 76 Industrial St.

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