Three years ago, Aida Torres took on the job of helping communities by distributing donated food to area residents. Now, she is asking others for help to purchase a truck so she can continue her mission.

Torres began distributing food in early 2021. She explained that she became ill with COVID-19 in late 2020. Despite trying to quarantine, her daughter also became ill with a cough. She recalled that she prayed that she and her daughter would recover and swore that if they did, she would become a better person. Torres said she began to feel better the next day, and she and her daughter made a full recovery.

To keep her promise, Torres bought food and set up a table outside her home with a sign stating that it was free. She said the offer was taken and the food was gone quickly. Then, she purchased 100 gallons of milk, and had a similar response. She began receiving donations of food and someone suggested she rent a truck to transport it all.

“It has grown,” Torres said of her operation, which she simply calls “Food Truck.” While she distributes food in Ware and Monson, she said people travel from several different towns, including Oakham, Warren, Wilbraham and Brimfield. “The food goes really fast,” she said, often in as little as two hours.

Torres receives donations of cereal, peanut butter, oatmeal, Gatorade and other non-perishable foodstuffs. “They give us dog food, too — sometimes, a whole pallet,” she said.

Donations are picked up in a U-Haul that Torres rents on a day-by-day basis. Rental fees, which she pays out-of-pocket, run about $159 per day, Torres said, and that does not include gasoline.

When Torres is done with her full-time job at 3 p.m., she and her volunteers, Jose Cabezudo, Stephanie Balog, Denise Blodgett, Susan Adams and Joe Borowy, park the U-Haul truck at United Church in Ware or at the park behind the Monson Police Department. Then, she posts a message to the food truck’s Facebook page, letting people know she is there and distributing food. Torres said that if she lets people know ahead of time, crowds will be waiting for her, which makes the process more difficult. She said people have tried to grab food off the truck while she was setting up the distribution. The volunteers do this four or five times per week, depending on whether a truck is available to rent.

When no truck is available, she said she cannot operate. “I hate to do that. People are waiting for food. People ask, ‘Are you going to be there?’ It breaks my heart to say no.”

Instead of paying rental fees and having inconsistent access to U-Hauls, Torres said she needs to buy a truck. “With a truck, I could move around. I could get more food for people.” She started a GoFundMe crowdsourcing campaign to collect donations toward a truck.

The Food Truck Facebook page has 2,700 followers. “If everyone gives $5, we could have a truck today,” Torres said. People donated $1,370 toward the $10,000 goal in the first seven days.

“We’re hoping to get a freezer truck,” Torres said. She currently cannot accept donations of refrigerated food because there is no way to keep it cold. With a refrigerated truck, she said, “We could have meat, poultry. We could bring milk, orange juice.”

Torres said she and the volunteers are committed to helping the community. “They all have families. They all have 40-hour per week jobs. No matter what, they move heaven and earth. Snowstorm, heatwave, we are there.”

For updates on the Food Truck and when it is available to distribute donations, visit tinyurl.com/2tbhm2yv. To donate to the Food Truck’s GoFundMe campaign, visit tinyurl.com/bdcmt8jn.

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