Emily Rademacher declined the bag of yellow onions, but the rest was an unexpected surprise for the college student struggling to support herself.

The potatoes, package of ribs, vegetables, boxes of cereal and crackers would be enough to last her a couple of weeks, she said.

Emily was not planning to go to The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri’s Mobile Food Pantry in Fayette during its monthly visit in January. From her apartment window, she happened to notice the truck and Food Bank staff distributing food in the parking lot across the street. When she asked around and found out she would qualify for free food, she was thrilled and made two trips to transport her allotment back to her apartment in a red laundry basket.

Emily is studying nursing with the help of scholarships and financial aid. Her parents, who recently relocated from Missouri to Florida, provide an allowance but it goes toward rent and other bills. Emily does not have a job in order to focus on studies.

“This will really help me out,” she said. “It will last a while. I was surprised by how much they gave me.”

The Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry visits Fayette on the third Thursday of each month. On a particularly cold January morning, families and individuals lined up an hour before the pantry was slated to open. The Food Bank team quickly set up to serve people immediately. In all, more than 125 individuals—roughly 55 families—were able to access food that day.

For Betty Leonard, the mobile pantry supplements her fixed income.

“After bills, there’s not much left,” she said. “So this helps a lot.”

Betty, a widow, raised four children, all of whom are now working adults with their own families.

“I sacrificed a lot to get them an education so that they’d be better off than I am,” she said.

Although she struggles with diabetes and high blood pressure, Betty said she makes an effort to eat well, and The Food Bank helps her make healthy choices.

Tim Marino and his wife, Michelle, rely on The Food Bank to help them support themselves. They met in a homeless shelter a year ago and married a month later. They’ve since been able to move out of the shelter and recently took in a 12-year-old boy whose mother is incarcerated.

Standing in line waiting for the pantry to open, Tim, a Gulf War veteran, and Herb Burr, a Vietnam veteran swapped combat stories.

“I remember the other guys grumbling, but I told them it’s what you make it,” Herb said. “The whole world is what you make it. Enjoy it.”

The people of Fayette are able to enjoy it a little more thanks to those who make The Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry possible, Betty noted.

“They are making a great gift,” she said, “by helping out the ones who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to purchase healthy food.”