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Free food pantry aims to fight food deserts with fresh produce

Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-10 19:35:57-04

CINCINNATI — Senior citizens in the West End lined up Tuesday for a rare opportunity to snag something they can't often get without leaving the area: fresh produce.

The St. Joseph Church Mobile Produce Pantry, located at the Regal Manor Senior Building on Linn Street, is run by the Freestore Foodbank and Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio. It provides residents in the neighborhood with access to free fresh produce to help combat a dearth of access in the surrounding neighborhood.

"We have no grocery store," said Rachel Anderson, a resident collecting free produce at the pantry. "We have not had a grocery store for 60 years."

Residents taking advantage of the service said the cost of fresh produce is a major barrier to their ability to get it, along with the distance they have to travel to find a grocery store.

Joesphine Winn, an 82-year-old resident scooping up produce said her fixed income combined with medical needs means the free produce provided gives her an opportunity to obtain and cook fresh food she otherwise wouldn't be able to get.

"It's good stuff," she said. "Really good stuff. It's very expensive at Krogers, I can tell you that."

Aaron Glauberman, director of senior corps for Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, said when the pantry first opened they served about 50 residents. He added that number has now grown to 100, and is still growing regularly. He said in a food desert community, with just one small corner store nearby, providing access to this fresh produce is tremendously helpful for residents.

"The store across the street is one of those little neighborhood stores that sells brown bananas, brown greens," said Winn. "They're expensive, besides being old and inedible. They offer us things that are not good. We deserve better than what's being presented to us."

Glauberman said the pantry is staffed fully by volunteers, who are also able to take home fresh food for their families after working to help others throughout the day.

Those interested in volunteering can visit the Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio website, or call 513.672.3700.