Sidney company teams up with Volunteers of America for food box distribution

It’s a drive-thru where you don’t pay.

“To be able to give back to the community is an amazing thing for us," Agri-Plastics H.R. Manager Donna Juelfs said.

Agri-plastics in Sidney partnered with Volunteers of America - Western Nebraska (VOAWN) for a food box distribution Monday. Crates full of healthy foods were given to anybody who wanted it. Organizers say they gave out about 500 boxes in just the first hour, showing a need in the community.

“Many counties within the Panhandle have been designated as USDA food deserts," President and CEO of VOAWN Adam Sickler said. "Those are our most impacted areas, especially in the last year dealing with COVID.”

Sickler says the program doesn’t just help those who may be food insecure. Ag producers are assisted as well. Through the CARES Act, the USDA purchased billions worth of food products from distributors to get meals to those who need them.

“It takes a village and in this case it takes a nation that really gets together and puts together something where we distribute 900 boxes," Sickler said. "There’s an awful lot of hands, an awful lot of workings that goes into each of these projects.”

VOAWN has held two distributions prior to Monday's. Sickler said the events in Ogallala and Chappell gave out about 60,000 pounds of food. The goal for Sidney's distribution was to hand out 36,000 pounds of meat, veggies, fruits, milk and other products.

Agri-plastics is does work in the dairy industry. They're also the first for-profit company VOAWN has partnered with for a food box distribution. The company’s Operations Manager Mark Wood says they’re happy to do their part in a time where distributions are crucial.

“We’ve had a lot of people here with the COVID-19 going around who have worked through that pandemic with us to keep the supply going," Wood said. "It’s a bit of a thank you back to the community for helping us keep going.”

The distribution is made possible by the Famers to Families Food Box program through the USDA. It began in May 2020 in response to the pandemic. The nationwide program comes to an end once the month is out. So far, over 168 million boxes have been given out nationwide.

“It’s a wonderful feeling," Sickler said. "It’s really very fulfilling personally, it’s really fulfilling as an organization and form a community standpoint.”