Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 14 newspaper on Page A1.
McARTHUR — A line of cars snaked around the fairgrounds as people worked through the line to obtain their cases of garbanzo beans, bags of white rice and apples and bundles of grapes during the Southeast Ohio Foodbank mobile food pantry on Friday.
Liz Shaw noted the foodbank gives to each family roughly two weeks worth of food, and during the colder months, the foodbank was able to give out frozen meats and containers of milk. Shaw is the founder of an area non-profit, Indivisible Appalachian Ohio (IAO).
IAO sponsors the Southeast Ohio Foodbank’s Vinton County distribution. 200 recipients brought food home to their families as a result. IAO has sponsored and helped coordinate the several Southeast Ohio Foodbank mobile food pantries this year.
Shaw saw a need to address food insecurity in the area after the United States Department of Agriculture, the federal agency which oversees SNAP benefits, temporarily closed as part of the partial federal government shutdown in February.
As a result of the shutdown, February benefits were available on EBT cards on Jan. 16, and those funds were meant for the month of February. Local agencies urged SNAP recipients to spread their benefits, but IAO and other organizations tackling food insecurity stepped in to cover the gap some may have experienced.
Frankie Wile, of McArthur, said the Southeast Ohio Foodbank distributions were a “god send” to her during this time. She noted she receives $47 worth of SNAP Benefits each month.
Wile has attended every single Southeast Ohio Foodbank food distribution in Vinton County.
The Vinton County Middle School’s Junior Beta Club volunteered to assist in loading cars with food boxes, and other volunteers in and outside Vinton County also came to help direct traffic, drop off bits of chocolate to cars as they waited in line and hand out cups of lemonade or coffee to people as they drive away. Some recipients arrived at the fairgrounds as early as 7:30 a.m. that morning.
The Beta Club has special ties to this distribution: Jr. Beta Club coordinator Megan Macke and her daughter Brynn recently donated half a hog to IAO as a part of the “Pork to Pantry” program. Brynn donated half of one of her hogs to St. Francis Outreach Center in McArthur, and IAO covered the cost of the processing fees.
Macke arranged for local businesses to purchase some of the 4-H animals at the Vinton County Jr. Fair livestock sale on July 26, and IAO also bought a hog from a young farmer.
All in all, IAO covered the costs for the processing of 495 pounds of locally raised meat.
Shaw said the introduction of a grocery store to the county was a major victory in combating food insecurity, but still others face challenges when it comes to accessing fresh produce.
For example, Carol Sims, of Creola, said she picks up food during these distributions for her family and for her neighbors, who lack a reliable form of transportation.
Sims noted the fresh fruits and vegetables she has received during the mobile food pantries have proved very useful; she has often canned them or turned them into pies to share with others.
“You can’t be ashamed of something God is helping you with,” Sims said.
Volunteer Joey Viny, who often directs newer volunteers in loading vehicles as they pass through the line, drives from Meigs County to assist with the distributions.
The volunteers have formed their own tight-knit community, as they have braved 13 degree wind chills and pouring rain to load cars with much-needed food.
“I know there are people who need help,” Viny said. “And I love interacting with the recipients and other volunteers.”