Distributing food in Perry County

Ohio National Guardsmen assist the Southeast Ohio Foodbank in distributing food to families in need in Perry County last week.

NEW LEXINGTON — The Southeast Ohio Foodbank held a food distribution event at the Perry County Fairgrounds in New Lexington last week, supplying food for approximately 500 families around the county.

The Southeast Ohio Foodbank is a sector of the Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Plan (HAPCAP) and its main focus is helping those who struggle with food insecurities in the southeast Ohio region.

According to HAPCAP, in the southeast region of the state, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in six individuals struggled with hunger. This also includes one in four children. Those who struggle with food insecurities encompass groups such as senior citizens, children, working adults, veterans and students.

According to the Foodbank Public Relations Manager Claire Gysegem, during these uncertain times of COVID-19, additional resources have been allocated to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She commented that the allocation has helped give locals help in securing food for their families.

On Wednesday, volunteers as well as members of the Ohio National Guard organized and set up distribution points for families to quickly obtain and leave with food. Food recipients stayed in their vehicles as volunteers and guardsmen loaded the food.

The official distribution took place at 10 a.m. on May 13. However, Gysegem stated that guardsmen were setting up hours prior. She also commented how some locals were at the Perry County Fairgrounds before initial setups were in place.

In the past, food distribution typically invited massive gatherings to the fairgrounds. With the guidance of the state officials and help from the Ohio National Guard, the process to get food to families went well, according to the public relations manager.

“It’s been a little over a month I believe since the Ohio National Guard was sent to Ohio’s 12 foodbanks,” Gysegem told The Perry County Tribune. “They have really helped us streamline our process.”

With additional personnel, Gysegem added guardsmen were very helpful in guiding vehicles as well as loading the food into them. She commented that all personnel assisting in the process were required to wear masks during the distribution. Guardsmen loading food into vehicles wore gloves and wiped down car door handles and trunk latches.

According to Gysegem, the food distribution saw the “same” amount of locals as other events in the past. She commented that SNAP benefits have helped not only families but foodbanks as well.

“That has definitely eased the need that a lot of our food banks have been experiencing,” Gysegem explained.

With the Southeast Ohio Foodbank still supplying families, the supply chain for the foodbank has changed somewhat. Gysegem stated there are some supplies that have become difficult to obtain such as shelf stable protein, powdered milk, canned beans and other items.

“That has been harder for us to obtain, but thankfully we are part of an awesome network. And we have a tremendous advocate in the Statehouse,” Gysegem said. “That kind of cross collaboration has really helped us.”

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