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      40,000 pounds of food distributed to area veterans

      There was not a parking spot to be had Wednesday morning as veterans and military families serpentined their way through the lawn of the VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, waiting for free food. The VA hospital was a distribution site for the 40,000 pounds of food that came by Feeding America semi-trucks full of fresh produce, meats and dairy. Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank serves 40 counties in Michigan, including all of the Upper Peninsula.

      ??We serve about 400,000 people in those 40 counties and we distribute about 26 million pounds of food annually,?? said CEO, Ken Estelle.

      Over 50 volunteers from the Patriot Guard, local students, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Escanaba helped veterans fill out paperwork and gather the food items.

      ??We saw there was a need for our veterans in the area and we also wanted to bring the food up as a thank you to our veterans and their families,?? said volunteer, Robin Wycoff. ??It??s exciting to be able to help people and see people get things that normally they wouldn't be able to get, like fresh produce.??

      Dean and Marian Ruhf just happened to hear about the event this morning and hurried over to the site at 8:00 a.m.

      ??We were sitting in Taco Bell having breakfast and we heard about it, people talking, so we came about an hour before,?? Marian said. ??I??m surprised to see the cabbage and watermelon, onions, and a big bag of potatoes. All good stuff you need.??

      Much of the food comes from retailers like Walmart and Target, but other food comes from farmers and other distributors.

      ??Generally, these mobile distributions range from about 5,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds,?? Estelle said. ??This is by far the largest we've ever done, so we brought 40,000 pounds of food to serve over 1,000 families today.??

      The distribution lasted until 4:00 p.m. or until the food ran out.