Hundreds of kids' free meals stolen from Middletown Salvation Army

Program feeds kids in need through summer months
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-18 20:28:00-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Inside the Salvation Army on First Avenue in Middletown, volunteers are getting lunches ready to be handed out as part of its summer lunch program for area kids in need.

The organization estimates they serve about 700 lunches each Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer.

But this year, the group said they hit a snag — when hundreds of meals were recently stolen.

Maj. Sebastian Leonardi, with the Salvation Army, told WCPO  about two pallets of food boxes — or, between 160-200 meals, were all stolen from a storage room at the Townhomes West in Middletown.

“We’re trying to do something good for kids that are so much in need, and to see that someone is trying to hurt that or being a stumbling block? Yeah, it does hurt,” Leonardi said.

Leonardi said the program was started to help students in need maintain consistent access to food during the summer months when they are not in school.

“During the time that the schools are closed, they go without food, and we are trying to fill that void,” he said.

WCPO has reached out to the Butler Metropolitan Housing Authority to see if they had any leads in the food’s disappearance, but did not hear back.

The Middletown police said they are currently investigating.

For Leonardi, the sharpest sting might come from the fact that the Salvation Army probably could have helped whoever is behind the theft, had they just asked.

“We’re always willing to give help, and so they could have come straight to our front doors and sign up like everyone else, and they will get what they need pretty much,” he said.

Meanwhile, Middletown police are asking anyone with information into the case to call Crimestoppers, at 513-352-3040.

And despite the theft, Leonardi said his resolve remains strong. He has the next batch of 700 meals all ready to go.