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New program delivers free food for those in need

Pantry to Porch gets food from the River Bend Food Bank to families in need in Rock Island-Milan schools.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Volunteers are making sure families in Rock Island and Milan have the food they need, even if they can't leave home right now.

Pantry to Porch is a new program through the River Bend Food Bank, delivering free food right to the doors of Rock Island-Milan school families.

Beth McKenna, director of nutrition services at Rock Island High School, says it's been great for students learning at home and for families without transportation to get to a food bank site.

"I see a lot of people stepping up and helping," she says. "Pantry to Porch is just a bigger benefit for the families that can't get out to get those foods."

She says families sign-up each week through the River Bend Food Bank. Then volunteers deliver the food on Wednesday mornings. Someone has to be home to accept the food.

"You've got to see the joy on their faces," says Dorothy Cotton, who helps delivers the meal through Second Baptist Church in Rock Island. "They say 'thank you thank you, thank you.' A lot of times."

She works with volunteers to deliver meals, up to about two dozen a week. She says it makes all the difference for some of these families.

"A lot of people lost their jobs, some have lost their homes," she says. "And this helps. The food is really expensive now."

Cotton says the program could begin to grow quickly as word gets out about it. And it comes during a difficult time for many families in the area.

National statistics show that some neighborhoods in Rock Island had a 30 percent unemployment rate in August 2020. Meanwhile, statewide, it was 10.9 percent that month.

The River Bend Food Bank says its sent out more than 330 weekly meal boxes over the first eight week of Pantry to Porch. Second Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center have helped make the deliveries.