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Volunteers distribute surplus food
Bags and boxes of food, including tuna, beans, canned fruit and vegetables and peanut butter, sit in the Army Reserve Center before they are picked up on Tuesday morning. Ninth District Opportunity Inc. joined with local volunteers to distribute the USDA surplus food Tuesday morning. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan
Shirley Harrison calls the distribution of surplus food "a blessing."

Harrison was one of hundreds lining up at the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Shallowford Road for a box or bag containing a few basic staples for people who qualify.

"It means that somebody cares a lot," said Harrison, a Gainesville resident. "We need extra food because everything is going up. There’s a lot of people who do need this surplus food."

The program used to include cheese, but now includes dried beans, fruit juice, canned tuna, beef stew and an assortment of canned fruits and vegetables.

The items were sorted and boxed by inmates at the Hall County Correctional Institute on Monday.

"It’s about the same number of people," said Michelle Rylee of Ninth District Opportunity, the agency that holds the monthly distribution. "We’ve had about 100 people come through in the first hour."

The food comes through the United States Department of Agriculture through a regional center in Atlanta. The food offered varies from month to month.

Eligibility for the program is based on monthly income. A single person with an income of $1,062 per month will qualify. The level goes up $369 for each additional person living in the home. A family of seven with a monthly income of $3,272 would qualify.

Many of those receiving the commodity boxes were elderly or disabled and were not physically able to carry the boxes. Warden Avery Niles and other staff members from the correctional institution carried the boxes to the car. Niles said that assisting with the program is rewarding for both the staff and the inmates at his facility.

The participants in Tuesday’s distribution were all Hall County residents. The agency also offers commodity distribution in the other counties it serves.

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