GALION — Some 500 Crawford County families will enjoy Thanksgiving meals courtesy of a valuable partnership that has developed over the past year.
Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio and Galion City Schools have linked arms to help the community during a difficult time created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership was initiated around this time in 2020 with funding provided by the City of Galion, which donated $32,205 in CARES Act funding to support the program.
“It was really at the height of the pandemic when we approached the school district about having the drive-thru distribution,” said Samantha Flores, director of program and partner services for Second Harvest. “We started on the side of the (Galion Middle School) building. We had one and it went really well and the community reacted really well to it. Then a couple of months later we got a funding opportunity (through the City of Galion) to have a more permanent partnership with the district.”
Food insecurity was an issue in many north central Ohio communities prior to the pandemic, Flores said. The outbreak exacerbated those issues and brought them more to the forefront of peoples’ minds. As more people began to be in need and to seek assistance, the pantries became a much more vital service.
“The pandemic really set a lot of things out of whack,” Flores said. “So not just from a public health standpoint, but from an economic standpoint and those are repercussions that we’re still living with every day. We had seen numbers (of people coming to the mobile food pantries) start to decline and sort of stabilize, but now it’s the opposite that’s happening. What we’re hearing from a lot of people is that food prices are going up and gas prices are going up and it’s really getting harder and harder for a lot of people. We’re seeing a lot of families again who have to choose between paying a utility bill and buying food.”
Flores said increasing numbers of people have been coming to the monthly food pantry at the Galion City Schools campus. The Nov. 16 pantry menu offered turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples, which drew more than 500 families to the event.
Flores noted that Galion City Schools “has been one of the best districts that we have been working with.”
“The communication is so great. The outreach to their community beyond the school community into the wider community here in Galion and just Crawford County in general has been really, really wonderful,” Flores said. “They’ve done a lot on their end to inform the community about the mobile food pantry events. They did a lot to organize things and help people register. We definitely appreciate the work and we recognize that this is a very difficult school year all around, so the fact that they’re willing to put time and effort into this is really meaningful for us and super meaningful for the community, too.”
Volunteer participation in Galion is higher than in most other locations where Second Harvest operates mobile food pantries, Flores said.
“That’s another case where the school district has really hit it out of the park and been an exemplary partner,” Flores said. “A lot of the sustainability of what we do comes down to volunteer power. We don’t have a lot of staff (at Second Harvest) to be able to come down and facilitate this ourselves.”
More than 30 people volunteered to work at the November food pantry, unloading food from the semi, arranging the food items in the bus garage, and conducting the distribution. She said between 25 and 30 people on average volunteer their time to work at the Galion pantry each month.
“Once a month these people take time out of their day to come here and work with us for four or five hours,” Flores said. “The volunteers find it meaningful and we truly wouldn’t be able to do it without them. We’ve had people from the school district, people from the community, people who heard about it or read about it in the newspaper and just wanted to help. People from all facets of Galion come out and volunteer with us.”
Flores said Second Harvest intends to keep offering the monthly food pantry at least through the end of this current school year and hopes to continue the partnership for as long as it’s needed in the local area.
For information about Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, visit the agency’s website at www.secondharvestfoodbank.org.
For information about Galion City Schools, visit the district’s website www.galionschools.org.