‘Filling the gap:’ LPD, WOFB collaboration aims to get food to people in need

LIMA — The Lima Police Department and the West Ohio Food Bank are joining together to meet the needs of individuals in the community struggling with hunger one police call at a time.

Lima Police Chief Angel Cortes shared his thoughts Wednesday on the newly created initiative that uses police interactions to help link those in need with food supplies.

“What a great resource in our community,” said Cortes. “I had no idea until Tommie came to me with an idea a couple of weeks ago. The idea was to give the Lima Police Department a supply of food and vouchers to distribute to our customers/clients if we saw a need. As we had our need we kind of expanded on that program and we ended up turning it into the ‘Filling the Gap’ program in partnership with the West Ohio Food Bank.”

West Ohio Food Bank CEO Tommie Harner reached out to LPD in hopes to distribute food to members of the community who may not know about the food program.

“We are just very thankful to be able to partner with the police department and reach a demographic of individuals who may not know about our services right now,” said Harner. “We are hoping that this will help build a better reputation for us and the police department. We are looking forward to this. Our goal is to pilot this program here in Lima and see how well it goes then branch off into some of our other 10 counties that we service.”

Every day, police officers get a first-hand look at some of the hardships people face on a daily basis. They hope to make a bigger impact by directly offering these resources.

“The Lima Police Department goes on tens of thousands of calls for service each year,” added Cortes. “On these calls, we encounter a lot of people. When we go into some homes we find the people have a need. Sometimes it is a food need and sometimes we see little babies walking around with dirty diapers that have not been changed in a while. Many times our officers will reach into their own pockets to provide diapers or food for these people and they won’t say a word to us. We now have the ability to go to the police department with the food they have supplied to us and grab a small amount of bags.”

Patrol officers will have access to bags of food that will hold enough to feed two people, and they will also have vouchers for the food bank available to give to those they see as being in need.

“They can go to the food bank the next day,” Cortes said. “If they can’t make it, the food bank will arrange to deliver it to them.”