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This food pantry is making things work, and it's needed now more than ever

Posted at 4:00 AM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 17:26:53-04

BETHEL, Ohio — Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio has served food deserts since 2016 through its Food For All program, feeding people across Clermont, Clinton, Highland, Brown, Adams and Hamilton counties.

“These are places that are considered food deserts,” said April Hoak, Food For All coordinator. “They don’t have a traditional grocery store that is close to them. Now in this pandemic, that makes it even more important.”

As a result, due to COVID-19, the organization has seen an increase in people needing food, especially in the more rural areas.

“We’ve seen more people coming through, and not just the people who come each month. It’s an increase in new families,” Hoak said. “In Adams County, our numbers normally are about 150 households. Last week we did 200 to 215 households. Over 40 new families that came out.”

That means the food donations they receive from the Freestore Foodbank are crucial for the organization. In addition to needing more food donations, Hoak said volunteers are also what keeps the food pantry drive-through operating.

Volunteers getting ready for the Food For All drive-through, wearing masks and gloves
Volunteers getting ready for the Food For All drive-through, wearing masks and gloves

“It’s been beautiful, because most of our volunteers are older,” said Hoak, who has learned to make robocalls to notify neighbors about the food pantry modification. “We want to keep them safe, so I’m asking them to stay home and am reaching out to younger people, and they’re stepping up. It’s beautiful.”

Volunteers like Mary Grace Ramsay, a Northwestern University student who is home for the time being because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been spending the last few weeks inside, really feeling helpless just watching the news and not feeling like there’s anything I could do to help but stay inside,” Ramsay said. “This seemed like a good opportunity to be able to help people while still maintaining safe standards and staying healthy, but also making sure we can get food out for people in need.”

While volunteers are boots-on-the-ground helping at the food pantries, others are doing their part by making masks for those participating. Those individuals have also delivered gloves and hand sanitizer for the staff and volunteers working away.

Hoak added that local authorities have been helping control the traffic flow of the drive-through pantries, and the National Guard also stepped up to help hand out donations.

“Crisis brings out the beauty and the humanity in our communities,” she said. “People wanting to help one another. That’s the cool thing about this!”

Where are the food pantries?

  • St. Mary Catholic Church, Bethel, Clermont County, the second Friday of the month
  • Prairie View Apartments, Wilmington, in Clinton County, on the second Thursday of every other month and Blanchester in the even months.
  • Greater Life Assembly, Hillsboro in Highland County, the fourth Thursday of the month
  • Centenary United Methodist, Ripley in Brown County, the third Wednesday of the month
  • Fairgrounds Administration Building, West Union in Adams County, the fourth Tuesday of the month

To get involved and volunteer, click here.