Group hands out food in Ind. town

March 11, 2009 8:34:26 AM PDT
Residents of an Indiana town that's been especially hard hit by the economic downturn got some much needed help on Tuesday.Boxes of food were handed out in Elkhart by volunteers with the group Feed the Children. There was enough to feed more than 5,000 families for a week.

The unemployment rate in Elkhart has soared to 18 percent. It is home to a number of RV manufacturers that have laid off hundreds of workers.

Roughly 1,600 familes picked up food and other items sent by a charity to economically distressed Elkhart. The 13 semitrailers that came to Elkhart carried more than $2.1 million worth of food, enough to help sustain about 5,200 families for a week. In addition to those who picked up supplies Tuesday, Feed the Children arranged for shipments to 3,600 northern Indiana families.

President Barack Obama visited Elkhart recently to muster public support for economic stimulus legislation. Layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry have driven much of the job loss in northern Indiana.

"What we want people to know is that in this time of despair, there is hope," said Larry Jones, the founder and president of Feed the Children. "People haven't forgotten you."

About 300 volunteers handed out the supply packages as hundreds of cars waited in a line wrapped around a shopping mall parking lot and onto surrounding roads. The city was the second of several cities on Feed the Children's "Americans Feeding Americans Emergency Caravan."

"It's been a struggle," said Patricia Smith, of Elkhart, who waited more than an hour to get her supplies, which came in a box containing macaroni and cheese, canned goods, toilet paper and other items. "We're surviving and we're going to make it through this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.