MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a rather uncomfortable spring day hunger is forcing folks to line up in the rain.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic only fuels the need as unemployment strains a family’s food budget.

“Before the virus we would have 30 to 35 households, single persons or families that would come,” Chris Nelson says.

Nelson is director of development at Community Emergency Service food shelf in Minneapolis, where daily requests for food help is skyrocketing.

“The first week we had the new distribution system outside we had 97 in one day, so that’s three times what we normally do,” Chris Nelson says.

To help keep the CES pantry’s shelves fully stocked, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway workers in the Twin Cities are stepping up.

After several weeks the employees are wrapping up a friendly competition — seeing who can raise the most canned and dry goods for the cause.

“Everybody felt like these donations could actually touch home and give back to our area,” Eddie Mendoza says.

Mendoza is leading the effort for BNSF’s Northtown crew. He and his fellow workers are hoping to bag and deliver more food than St. Paul’s BNSF Midway group.

The winning side will receive a free pizza party, courtesy of the losers. But in this case, the true winner will be the clients of CES.

“Depending on people’s employment it could go on a few more months,” Nelson says.

It’s not only hundreds of pounds of food coming to the food shelf. The BNSF Charitable Foundation will donate $5,000 to the cause to help purchase even more food.

“Everything is shutting down but these people’s lives are in need for this food pantry which is still going,” Mendoza says.

Delivering vital help to neighbors in need.

For more information on donation and volunteer needs of Community Emergency Service, click here.