Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 27 newspaper on Page A1.

There are numerous organizations who are working to reduce the effects of food insecurity at the local level, one meal box — or one frozen turkey — at a time.

Food insecurity is a term defined as having difficulty accessing reliable sources of affordable and nutritious foods.

St. Francis Evangelization Center and CARE United Methodist Outreach serve hundreds of individuals and families in Vinton County through their combined food pantry, located in McArthur.

The organizations also visit their four mobile sites in Ratcliffburg, New Plymouth, Wilkesville and Zaleski on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Operations manager Ashley Riegel noted that transportation is a “major obstacle” for many in terms of obtaining nutritious food. The mobile food distributions help those who may not be able to or make it to McArthur to go shopping at the county’s grocery store; it’s even more so helpful to those who can’t afford to buy fresh food.

“We love that we can make things easier for families across Vinton County,” she told The Courier.

Volunteers also disperse Thanksgiving day boxes complete with all of the major ingredients for a traditional holiday meal. Volunteers at St. Francis refer to this distribution as their “turkey toss.”

This year, the organization gave away 60 turkeys. Hundreds of gift cards to Campbell’s Market are also provided to families through St. Francis.

According to CARE United Methodist Outreach 2018 end of year report, which contains data collected by the Southeastern Ohio Foodbank. The ministry serviced more than 420 families, and each family visited its food pantry roughly six times that year. An estimated 18 meals were provided to each individual visit/event (six days worth of food with three meals per day), resulting in 117,504 meals delivered per year.

The average cost per meal varied greatly, according to CARE, and it all depended on how much food was donated, how much was purchased through the Southeast Ohio Foodbank, and how much food was purchased from the local grocery store. Thus, meals ranged from 38 cents to $2 each.

There are similar efforts going on in other parts of Vinton County, as well.

Project Feed-VC, a program that began under the local Junior Beta Club chapter, also collected Thanksgiving meal items to prepare in boxes and disperse to many families in the community. The boxes include many holiday staples: stuffing mix, instant mashed potatoes, canned gravy, pie crust and filling, canned vegetables and fruit and cranberry sauce. Vinton County Middle School students help package all of these items, which were collected all throughout October and November.

The service organization also maintains the “blessing boxes” dispersed throughout the county. Blessing boxes are outdoor food pantries Project Feed-VC created last year to assist those experiencing food insecurity.

There are several blessing boxes in Vinton County:

  • Four in McArthur: In front of the Job and Family Services office; in front of Grillo Law office; at Wyman Park; and at the church across from the fairgrounds
  • One in Hamden: in front of the post office
  • One in Allensville: at the church in front of West Elementary
  • One in Zaleski: by the village’s town hall and township trustee office
  • One near Creola: located at the Ebenezer Church

Project Feed-VC coordinator Melissa Hammond said these boxes are in constant need of items and must be re-stocked regularly. Hammond Insurance on Main Street in McArthur accepts and stores donations for the Blessing Boxes. The items inside each box are donated by the public, and many of the boxes have local sponsors. Project Feed-VC accepts non-perishable food items, toiletries and pet food.

sdawes@vintoncourier.com; @sydneydawes_95

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