BY ANNE STANTON
TRAVERSE CITY — Volunteers stood in the bitter cold next to two Meijer semi truck trailers and waited for donations of canned goods and cash for the Father Fred Frostbite Food Drive.
The weeklong drive is intended to replenish The Father Fred Foundation's shelves, where anyone can "shop" at the grocery store for what they need, no proof of hardship required.
"It goes back to Father Fred himself, 'If I have it, and you need it, it's yours,'" said Joan O'Neill, communications manager for the nondenominational charity. "The reality is hard times can happen to anyone, your neighbor or even yourself."
Dave Barr of WTCM radio, who helps promote the event, recommended people bring soup, peanut butter, cold cereal, and canned meats, like chicken or tuna. Less popular canned vegetables tend to stay on the shelf longer, he said.
Barr, chilled from the cold wind, expects to spend 60 to 70 hours a week on behalf of the food drive. Event organizers once discussed holding the drive in the summer, a more comfortable time to man donation sites. But they decided February was the best time because of the seasonal lack of jobs and the dire emergencies winter often brings.
One of the semis already was more than half filled on Friday, thanks to a "canstruction-TC" event at last week's Grand Traverse Mall.
Barr said donations filled more than two semis last year; he is hoping to top that this year. Donations will be matched up to $100,000 for gifts of food and cash, which is used to buy food pantry staples when supplies run short.
Donation sites include the Garfield Centre, Fox Grand Traverse on U.S. 31 South, Family Fare at Chum's Corner, Oleson's at Three Mile and Hammond, and Tom's in Acme.
Last year, Father Fred counted 16,500 visits to the pantry, an increase of 36 percent from 2010. Father Fred provided enough food in 2012 to feed more than 60,000 adults and children.
For more information, call 947-2055.