CLEVELAND (WJW) – Massive lines of cars backed up traffic, extending from the Muni Lot to E. 55th Street and back down onto the Shoreway Thursday because of a food distribution event.

The Greater Cleveland Foodbank began holding drive-thru events during the COVID pandemic and has continued because they say the need is so great.

“It is a little bit overwhelming. We definitely saw an increase in cars,” said Karen Pozna, director of communications for the Greater Cleveland Foodbank.

Twenty-three hundred people preregistered for the event and they brought enough provisions for 2,800, but still ran out.

“We’re seeing families, single folks and a lot of seniors,” said Pozna.

The upcoming holidays are one reason more people are seeking help, but she says there are other factors too, including ongoing inflation and COVID benefits running out.

As of September, they recorded serving 400,000 this year and she says 100,000 of them were seeking assistance for the first time ever.

“That’s one of the highest years of service we’ve had in our history. So it speaks to the continued need of people who are still hit with inflation, so many pandemic benefits ending and it’s obvious people are still struggling,” she said.

After running out of food at the Muni Lot, people were sent to the new Community Resource Center, located at 15500 S. Waterloo Road, Cleveland, which just opened last week and offers tremendous promise.

“We have over 1,000 partner programs as well as this new Community Resource Center where people can go they can shop for for their own food. They can choose the food that they want,” she said.

They’re encouraging people to check it out and consider going there first, but are also still planning additional distribution events.

Another drive-thru will be held at the Muni Lot Thursday, Nov. 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. People are encouraged to pre-register.

Two additional events will be held in December.

“We’re prepared for larger crowds and we have over 100 volunteers signed up,” she said.

But they can always use more help, volunteers and cash donations to meet the growing needs of the community.

“We want to encourage people to come and feel OK about coming and knowing they need help,” said Pozna.

To reach the help center, call 216-738-2067. You can also learn more at Greater Cleveland Foodbank website.