Local food pantries are responding to the need for people who cannot afford to put food on their tables during the coronavirus outbreak.
West Ohio Food Bank is receiving assistance from 21 members of the Golf Company 237th Support Battalion U.S. Army National Guard, Lima. The service members will work for the next 30 days Mondays through Fridays to fill food boxes for elderly and those who cannot purchase food on their own. On Tuesday there were over 500 people served during the distribution, according to Jason Aldrich, West Ohio Food Bank director of donor relations and communications.
The Food Bank serves 11 counties including Allen, Paulding, Van Wert, Mercer, Putnam, Auglaize, Shelby, Hancock, Hardin, Seneca and Wyandot.
The boxes were filled with eggs, fresh produce, apple juice, milk, canned goods, cereal and tuna.
Naeyshka Aguilar, U.S. Army private, worked with other service members to fill food boxes.
“It feels good to be able to help others. I know what it is like to be in this situation, and I want those who receive the food to feel important and know they are loved and not forgotten,” Aguilar said.
Linda Hamilton, West Ohio Food Bank chief executive officer, said there started to be an increase for food services when schools started to shut down due to the coronavirus.
“So many of our pantries are run by seniors. With the need to ensure everyone is home safe in quarantine, we are trying to see how we can use healthy volunteers and the National Guard to help in areas that the elderly volunteers cannot participate in,” Hamilton said.
She said the pantries are working to make sure people get more than a three-day supply of food to help them get by for a longer period of time. Instead of the previous method where people came in and selected foods they wanted, volunteers have food boxes packed up for distribution. Volunteers will check ID and then put the boxes in people’s cars.
“West Ohio Food Bank and all of our food banks are considered essential services, and we will continue to be open and distribute food to everyone,” Hamilton said.
Lima St Mark’s Church Resource Center, 1100 N. Metcalf St., has already this month served 800 families. That is an increase over the usual 600 households, according to Jessie Roark, food pantry director.
Pantry hours are from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Wednesdays and items include pasta, rice, cereal, canned goods, and frozen and canned meat.
“We typically give a three-days supply of food, but now we have gone to a drive-thru only, and we pre-package a box for a seven-day supply of food,” Roark said.
She said not everyone can afford to shop in large quantities, and when people have children, they need to figure out how to feed them.
The food is purchased from West Ohio Food Bank at a discounted rate with private donations to the church.
Ottawa Food Pantry, 137 N. Pratt St, served 77 cars representing 181 individuals and 24 new people during its food pantry Tuesday with over half of the people served being first-time visitors to the pantry, according to Sandi Racer, Ottawa Food Pantry chairwoman.
The pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month and usually serves an average of 35 to 40 households each time, Racer said.
The communities of Ottawa, Glandorf, Miller City, Kalida, Gilboa, Pandora, Fort Jennings and Ottoville are served by the pantry.
Volunteers worked together to load boxes and bags of food into vehicles that included turkeys and chicken, fresh produce and fruit, cereal and hygiene products. Food is purchased from West Ohio Food Bank and Kohls Market.
Marita Deatrick, volunteer and Ottawa United Methodist Church member, worked with other volunteers to load groceries into people’s cars.
“It’s a need we were not aware of until today, and we are excited people feel led to come here,” Deatrick said.
The pantry is sponsored by New Creation Lutheran Church, Ottawa Presbyterian Church, Ottawa Trinity United Methodist Church, St. John Catholic Church, St. Michael Catholic Church, SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church and Faith Baptist Church.
In Faith Ministries, 1575 E. High St., Lima, offers a drive-thru pantry from 11 a.m. to noon the last Wednesday of the month.
Tasha Berkhalter, In Faith Ministries team leader, said the ministry is prepared for the next two months to distribute food to the community. The ministry had offered a food pantry for the past 14 years, but Wednesday was the first time visitors were not allowed to select their own food due to the coronavirus.
“We are trying to comply with the governor and make sure we have our gloves and sanitizer to protect ourselves and those who visit us,” Berkhalter said.
Volunteers load the supplies into people’s vehicles including meat, canned and boxed goods, pastries, bread, eggs, vegetables and potatoes.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.