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Nicole Strother, right, and other Food Depot volunteers in November fill boxes with produce to be distributed to those in need. The coronavirus pandemic sparked a roughly 30 percent increase in demand for food and a decline in volunteers.

A line of cars stretches from Siler Road to Agua Fría Street at 6:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning outside The Food Depot. Maddy Skrak, 25, is equipped with a yellow reflective vest, a marker, a tally counter and a cup of coffee. So are the two other volunteers whose task it is to approach each car, provide volunteer-made masks if needed, count the number of people in need of food, write the number on the windshield and continue to the next vehicle.

Skrak, who began volunteering at The Food Depot at the start of the pandemic after she was laid off from her job, says the line has been “so reflective of where we [are] at with the pandemic.” Skrak says, “I felt like I was at the front lines of disaster relief” around this time last year.

Jill Dixon, the director of development at The Food Depot, says the pandemic has pushed the organization to evolve quickly. It sparked a roughly 30 percent increase in demand for food and a decline in volunteers. The Food Depot’s volunteer base was mostly older people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Skrak is one of over 600 new volunteers who have stepped up to help. She says that at the beginning of the pandemic, she questioned her safety as she interacted with hundreds of people, but she realized the need was tremendous.

Aviva Nathan will attend United World College as a junior in the fall. Contact her at avivafnathan@gmail.com.