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The Illinois Department of Transportation is partnering with organizations to provide free meals to commercial motor vehicle operators as a gesture of appreciation to truck drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Jay “J.B.” Pritzker and IDOT announced May 1 that the agency is working with groups to give away meals at certain weigh stations. With restaurants closing due to the virus, truck drivers in many cases are finding limited food options.
“We are proud to offer our assistance in saying thank you to truckers and giving them some encouragement in their travels,” Illinois acting Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “All of us owe these men and women our gratitude for keeping the nation’s supply chain moving, making sure food is winding up in our homes and getting medical supplies and equipment to the people that need them most.”
The free food events will be held at weigh stations, rather than rest areas, and will have maximum time limits of three hours. Truckers can call on participating weigh stations on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Participants must observe the guidelines for handling food and maintaining safety that have been issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health. For example, participants will be asked if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, have traveled outside Illinois in the past two weeks or have been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus.
Volunteers must wear proper protective gear, such as masks and gloves, and observe social distancing guidelines. No more than 10 people may be on-site at a time, not including truck drivers. On-site truck parking will not be allowed.
The food must be individually wrapped meals purchased from licensed food establishments and must be properly labeled and temperature-controlled. Soliciting and advertising for businesses will not be allowed, and leftover meals will be discarded.
IDOT spokesman Paul Wappel said any individuals or groups can participate as long as they adhere to the guidelines. IDOT and the Illinois State Police are coordinating scheduling; organizations wishing to distribute food must submit their requests at least five days in advance.
Weigh stations where appreciation events will occur:
- Interstate 55 southbound at Williamsville in Sangamon County.
- Interstate 57 northbound and southbound at Marion in Williamson County.
- Interstate 64 eastbound at O’Fallon in St. Clair County.
- Interstate 70 westbound at Marshall in Marshall County.
- Interstate 74 eastbound and westbound at Moline in Henry County.
- Interstate 80 eastbound and westbound at East Moline in Rock Island County.
- Interstate 70 eastbound at Brownstown in Fayette County.
“[Truck drivers] deliver so many of the food supplies, medical supplies [and] health-related supplies to stores, pharmacies, warehouses, medical facilities [and] hospitals,” Wappel said. “It’s just important to let them know they are appreciated.”
Illinois is one of several states that has started programs to offer relief to truck drivers during the pandemic. Some states, such as Indiana and Arizona, have launched programs to allow licensed food trucks to operate at highway rest areas to serve commercial motor vehicle drivers.
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