Foodshare and the Connecticut Food Bank distributed food for the last time on Thursday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. It started as a one-week emergency distribution a year ago on April 20, 2020 and ended up continuing for an entire year.
It was an integral part of helping Connecticut families during the COVID-19 pandemic. An average of 2,000 cars a day would line up for assistance.
Foodshare distributed more than 7 million meals to 275,320 cars that have come through Rentschler Field over this last year.
“It’s been sensational. I tell you, it’s been fantastic,” said Gary Irwin, a Manchester man who was in line picking up food.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
Each car in the long lines had a person inside with a story to tell of how the pandemic affected them and their families. Some lost their jobs last spring, others like Mary, from East Hartford, worked throughout the pandemic and was just put out of work two months ago for an injury. She worked at a grocery store but now needs help getting food of her own.
“My goal is, I just want to get back to work and this has really been a big help for me because when you’re not making much money right now, your biggest goal is to pay your bills. Food goes to the bottom of the list,” said Mary, who did not want to provide her last name.
Stories from people in need motivated Foodshare to keep going, month after month, through the heat last summer, frigid temperatures this winter, rain and snow.
“Our army of volunteers here have been through the snow. We shot temperatures on the asphalt during the summer at 147 degrees. They just keep coming,” said Dom Piccini, the logistics manager for Foodshare.
This distribution at Rentschler Field has been Dom Piccini’s baby. He coordinated the logistics every day and said his volunteers are the backbone of the operation.
“It’s been an honor to help our community and you get choked up sometimes. My volunteers, they’re crying alreadym asking me what I’m going to do next week,” said Piccini.
Jason Jakubowski, Foodshare and Connecticut Food Bank’s president and CEO, said this is the first time in a year that they see light at the end of the tunnel.
“The idea that this is coming to an end is a good thing. It means that there is recovery, it means we’re not in the same place we were a year ago. It means that facilities like Rentschler Field are starting to open up again and being able to be used for their intended purpose. But we know that there is still a great need here in Connecticut and that’s why our other sites, our other drive-thru emergency distributions around the state are going to stay open through at least through the month of May, if not a couple months beyond that,” said Jakubowski.
For weeks the volunteers at Rentschler Field handed out information to connect people with other food distribution sites around the state.
Foodshare merged with Connecticut Food Bank in January.