GALION — A collaborative effort between Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, Galion City Schools, and the City of Galion is helping to put food on the tables of local people in need.
The mobile food pantry in Galion — the next one is scheduled for Feb. 24 — is one of nine that Second Harvest is supporting during the month of February. The food bank’s service area includes Crawford, Erie, Huron, and Lorain counties.
Samantha Flores, director of program and partner services for Second Harvest, said food insecurity is a pressing issue and the numbers of people seeking assistance have grown over the past year.
“Since COVID hit, we’re seeing an uptick in the number of people coming to food pantries in all of our four counties,” said Flores. “But we’re really seeing a marked increase in new families coming out for help for the first time. In 2020, about half of the people we served at our pantries were new families. That’s something that we haven’t seen before. So its very clear to us that a wider and wider swath of people are coming out and are in need. That’s why these mobile food pantries are so important, to go where the people are and where the need is.”
Violeta Chinni, family engagement coordinator for Galion Middle School, said 588 families (1,776 individuals in total) were served during the most recent food pantry held on Jan. 27. A total of 8,559 meals were provided to those who went through the mobile food pantry, Chinni said.
“Thanks to Second Harvest, we’re able to provide about 70 to 80 pounds of food, both perishable and non-perishable food items — fruits, vegetables, frozen meat,” Chinni said. “Especially during this pandemic, that can go a long way for our families. It was also important for us to address our families who are elderly; grandparents taking care of their grandchildren and they’re the sole providers. This ensures that they get additional food for them and the students.”
Chinni emphasized that the mobile food pantry is open to the entire community and not just students and families of Galion City Schools.
Funding for the food pantry was provided by the City of Galion and CARES Act money the city received, she said. Galion Mayor Tom O’Leary previously stated that given the high number of people seeking food assistance, the city will continue to support the food pantry financially this year.
Chinni said she views the mobile food pantry as the continuation of the district’s backpack program, which is administered by Community Action with food provided by Second Harvest Food Bank.
“We provide our kids and families in need with backpacks so they can have shelf-ready food over the weekend,” Chinni said. “During the week, we provide food for kids through our school lunch program, but the backpack program allows us to extend that nutritional support for the kids and families who need it.”
The next mobile food pantry in Galion is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24. It will be serving people from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Galion Middle School. To register for the food pantry, go to https://freshtrak.com/register/event/24207.