Indivisible Appalachian Ohio

NEW LEXINGTON — Several families have been affected after several businesses and entities closed or changed working hours due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the State of Ohio. In an effort to feed families, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank set up food distribution at the Perry County Fairgrounds.

This week marks the fourth week of state and federal agencies combating and addressing the quick traveling virus. After schools, restaurants, bars and other non-essential businesses closed doors, some individuals and families have been struggling to find and pay for quality food.

With the state health crisis still being addressed, representatives and volunteers with the Southeast Ohio Foodbank scheduled food distribution at the Perry County Fairgrounds last Tuesday morning.

“The food distribution was scheduled in response to what’s been going on in the State,” Southeast Ohio Foodbank Development Coordinator David Keller told The Perry County Tribune.

Keller added that another reason the food distribution site was organized was done so the Foodbank could make room for more shipments of food. The Southeast Ohio Foodbank wanted to distribute old stock in order to make room for more shipments coming in. Shipments coming in are scheduled to be delivered to local food banks in the region.

To help deliver, organize and distribute food to families, members of the Ohio National Guard is assisting the region. Keller stated that crews for the National Guard were sent in to help the Southeast Ohio Foodbank.

“The main job that they are doing now is helping out in our warehouse… because of what we are seeing with our volunteer numbers, we did end up bringing a couple up to Perry County… they are fantastic volunteers,” Keller said.

Keller added that there are approximately 30 volunteers at the food distribution site in Perry County. Volunteers came from local entities, schools, the National Guard and first responding agencies in the county.

The distribution last Tuesday went from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as families lined up in cars waiting to be sent through the pickup line. According to Keller, a little more than 400 households were given food equalling out to 30 to 40 pounds of food per car.

“We handed out all the food that we had,” Keller said.

The Southeast Ohio Foodbank made a mission to provide families with nutrient rich and high in protein foods for the coming weeks. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has stated in the past the pandemic in Ohio may see a downturn in early April of this year.

Food given to families consisted of apples, bags of chili, canned salmon, peanut butter, cream of mushroom soup, bags of lentils and other essential items.

“That was really our goal to push a lot of this food out especially to the people who need it right now,” Keller said.

From what Keller and his colleagues are seeing, many locals in the community are facing unemployment making it difficult for them to pay for necessities. This has since increased the need for food supply in the area.

As the demand for more food increases day by day, the supply has remained constant. Keller stated that the national supply chain is still intact. The Southeast Ohio Foodbank is partnered with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Ohio Jobs and Families Services and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“We have more trucks coming now in than we ever have and the food is just flying off our shelves,” Keller commented. “The shortages isn’t caused by a lack of product, it is by individual panic buying more than they could ever possibly need.”

Some families and individuals have been reacting to the continuous news of COVID-19 which has indirectly pressured them into buying mass quantities of supply. The supply chain for the Southeast Ohio Foodbank remains strong.

Keller commented that families who have absorbed more food supply than they need, they should reach out to neighbors, local agencies and food banks to help those who are desperately in need of food.

“If they feel that they have enough to share with a neighbor or a local food pantries, just come at it with an open heart,” Keller said.

Looking ahead, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank is planning to distribute more food in the future. The organization works with over 70 locally based food pantries, soup kitchens and other meal sites to get people the help they need.

Instead of doing another food distribution site, Keller explained that more attention will be given to local food pantries. Food pantries are able to stay open longer and provide more food to locals at an hourly rate than the food distribution site did during one day in Perry County.

The Southeast Ohio Foodbank is helped by the assistance of volunteers. The COVID-19 virus has limited the amount of activity senior citizens can do outside of their home. Keller said that the population is one major source for volunteers. He added that new volunteers are welcome to contact the Southeast Ohio Foodbank for volunteering opportunities.

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Pavloff is a reporter for the Perry County Tribune.

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