October 18, 2021

Tully food giveaway attracts about 1,500

Long line for help

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Karen Engst brings containers of milk to a waiting vehicle Tuesday during a free food distribution at Tully High School.

TULLY — Karen Engst called out to the volunteers who worked among piles of plastic milk containers and boxes of produce and meat as two rows of cars flanking them waited Tuesday afternoon.

“Two families here,” Engst yelled, wearing a bright yellow safety vest. “Chicken.”

She and others rushed to load the goods into the car trunk in the parking lot of Tully High School and send the vehicle on its way during a massive food giveaway.

Each household received two gallons of milk, one box containing 22 pounds of produce and another box containing 10 pounds of meat, while the supplies lasted up to 4,000 gallons of milk, 17,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables and 8,000 pounds of meat.

The line of cars, about 1,500 of them, extended in both directions along Route 80 to the school entrance, then snaked through the entrance road and along orange cones in a large parking lot to the distribution area.

Zach Chawgo, the head groundskeeper for Tully Central Schools, directed traffic coming off Route 80. He said most people were patient, but not all.

Joyce Colabufo held a sign reading “Thank you,” out a window as she sat in the back seat of a gray sedan waiting in line for food.

“I think it’s great,” she said, “Thank you to all the organizers. It’s great for the community.”

The event in Tully was one of several put on by the American Dairy Association North East, which worked with milk processors Dairy Farmers of America and Upstate Niagara Cooperative and community groups.

Other giveaways Tuesday were at St. Patrick Church in Otisco and Central Square Middle School. Two more today are at noon at Destiny USA mall in Syracuse and 4 to 6 p.m. at Grimshaw Elementary School on Route 20 in Lafayette.

Milk was also delivered to food pantries in Tully, Lafayette, Fabius- Pompey and Preble food pantries, said organizer Melanie Vilardi.

Similar events have been conducted in Cortland, Dryden and other communities in recent weeks.

Tully school district Superintendent Bob Hughes said he was surprised by the number of cars.

“There is probably more of a turnout than we were expecting,” he said as he waved good-bye and directed cars toward the exit. “I expected a large turnout, but I didn’t think we would back cars up on Route 80.”

There is an obvious need, he said as 180 to 200 students were served in the breakfast and lunch programs in the months since school buildings were closed because of the coronavirus. He recognized some faces in the cars Tuesday, but most he did not.

That kept the volunteers busy on a hot and sunny afternoon.

“It’s going great,” Engst said through a white face mask as she loaded a box of fruit into the trunk of a gray Mitsubishi sedan. “Very smooth.”