CLEVELAND (WJW) – The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is holding one of its biggest food distributions of the year.

Staff planned to serve 4,000 people during its Thanksgiving food distribution at the Cleveland Municipal Lot on Thursday. Pre-registration is required for service.

At last week’s food distribution 2,300 people pre-registered for assistance. Staff and volunteers prepared enough food for 2,800 people yet supplies still quickly ran out. Those who could not be served were directed to the food bank’s newly opened community center for help.

Karen Pozna, director of communications at the food bank, said last week’s unexpected surge is a sign of prolonged struggle for thousands of local families after pandemic benefits ran out.

“Prices are still high; that makes it really difficult for folks to afford food … gas, for their car, medicine, and people are still struggling with those choices,” said Pozna.

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This year. the food bank served 400,000 people, Pozna said, and 100,000 are first-time clients.

“In the last year all the pandemic benefits have come to an end,” said Pozna. “There was the increased SNAP benefits that ended, that’s really hurt folks trying to make ends meet.”

Amid an increase in demand for assistance, the need remains high this holiday season. The greatest gifts that make a difference in the help staff can provide are donations of money and time to volunteer.

“You just see the relief in their faces when they’re receiving that food,” said Pozna.