Dozens of cars lined up from the airport on Lexington Avenue to the YMCA Wednesday morning two hours before organizers could open a new drive-thru food pantry.

The YMCA partnered with the USDA program, Farmers to Families, and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma (RFBO) to provide food to families suffering from the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families are provided fruits, vegetable, produce, dairy and meat in boxes in 1-2 boxes depending on family size. The drive-thru pantry will be open the third Wednesday of the month between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the east side of the YMCA building. Families can return monthly without income verification, said Julia Fehr, YMCA Community Services Director.

The program is also made possible in part due to a donation from the Trea Young Family Foundation.

“The Young Family has always been very vocal about their support of the YMCA,” Fehr said. "They have been members at our YMCA for many years. We reached out to them knowing they had a love for the Y and the Norman community. After a couple conversations with Rayford Young, he was more than willing to make a generous donation to help get our food assistance program off the ground. We were excited to receive a donation from the Young Family Foundation to our food assistance program. Funds will be spent on creating a space to house and store food in the future, purchase food, and supplies. By making a donation to the Cleveland County Family YMCA, you can help sustain this project in the future. We are hoping to partner with local grocery stores and businesses to keep our vision alive.”

Nearly 40 volunteers served 434 people, or 154 families more than 10,000 pounds of food by 1 p.m. Wednesday. Fehr said more than ever before, people are in need.

“We have been working on the idea of a food assistance program since the start of 2020," Fehr said. "We have been brainstorming and trying to figure out where the need was in our community. With the unexpected global pandemic, it was obvious the need had significantly increased. Due to the loss of jobs and income, we knew people were needing help now more than ever. Although we know the Farmers to Families program is a temporary solution, we have big plans to continue our food assistance program.”

According to feedamerica.org and census.gov, more than 38,000 people, including 11,350 children, in Cleveland County are food insecure.

“The YMCA has always been more than a gym,” Fehr said. "We serve people in many ways from all walks of life, and from all different parts of the community. We never turn anyone away due to their inability to pay. The YMCA has been part of the Norman community for over 35 years. When the impact of COVID-19 started to become obvious, we knew that people needed more from us."

The Trae Young Family Foundation could not be reached for comment.

Mindy Ragan Wood

405-416-4420

mwood@normantranscript.com

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