FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The line that formed outside the Smith Recreation Center early Wednesday morning was indicative of the need that many families are feeling this year.
Hundreds of cars filled the parking lot waiting for the mass food distribution to begin.
"I've been unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic. It's been really rough,"said Latonya Dunlap, a Fayetteville mother of three.
Dunlap was out the door by 6 a.m. to be first in line. She was evicted this year and said it's been a trying time for her family as two of her daughters have been in and out of the hospital. When asked how she's made it through the year, she said she's barely survived.
"Literally prayer. My unemployment ran out and there's just no other assistance," said Dunlap.
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The National Guard and a local church ministry assisted as 500 families benefitted from the food giveaway. Organizers of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina distributed eggs, milk, produce and meat. The goods came just in time for Christmas.
"Lot of people struggling during this time. High numbers at our pantries, 40% increase among first time users. Really want to make sure we provide the meals," said David Griffin, director of the Second Harvest Food Bank.
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Families like the Dunlaps say this food should last a few days, but once it all runs out, she's not sure how they'll eat.
"I have no clue. I really don't have a clue," said Dunlap.
'It's been really rough': Fayetteville food bank holds meal distribution for 500 families days before Christmas