Photos and video: Andrew Goff.

Traffic started backing up to Broadway right after 2 p.m. today, as hundreds of local people lined up to get emergency food help at the local food bank’s emergency distribution at the Bayshore Mall.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Anne Holcomb, executive director of Food For People, told the Outpost’s Andrew Goff at the scene this afternoon. Holcomb said that 50 people were already waiting to be served at 1:30 p.m., half an hour before the event began.

Food For People has 600 boxes of quality food to distribute, each containing about 20 pounds of food — “a nice selection of high-quality items,” Holcomb said — and it seems likely to get through them quickly. [UPDATE: It’s now 3:10 p.m., and boxes are still available.] The money for these boxes came from a special $6 million appropriation for local food banks from the state legislature, as part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis. Humboldt’s share amounted to about 1,100 boxes, many of which went to local families with children who are already food bank clients.

Holcomb said that Food For People is seeing two kinds of clients during the pandemic. There’s the people they regularly serve, who didn’t have the resources to stock up on groceries when the crisis began. But there is a whole new wave of people who are recently unemployed due to the pandemic, and newly food-insecure.

“We just thought this would be good timing,” she said. “Folks are applying for CalFresh, and it can take a little bit to get your benefits in place. We thought this might kind of fill the void.”

Holcomb said that she worked with the Eureka Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, as well as mall management, to arrange this afternoon’s event, and said that everyone has been immensely giving and helpful. The city of Eureka and the Cooperation Humboldt group also pitched in resources.

Food For People has been suffering since before the current crisis, after a city sewage backup destroyed stores of food and made its regular headquarters uninhabitable. However, it continues to operate and supply food pantries throughout the region. If you need food help, check the list of resources on their website.

Holcomb speaks to a TV reporter.