BUCYRUS — It is no secret these are difficult economic and financial times for many residents in Ohio. And while some have seen improvement and change for the better in recent months, many areas are still slow to see signs of improvement.
With that in mind, United Way of Crawford County is working to ensure food sources within the county are getting needed help in difficult times.
“With the recent government shutdown, we had a discussion about the possible impact to residents in Crawford County and what we could do to help. Thankfully, the shutdown has affected a slim amount of the residents here in our area,” said Crawford County United Way manager Nadia Oehler. “But the conversation did bring us to realize one important possible issue as a side affect of the shutdown in that SNAP food benefits were going to be disrupted to residents who depend on them.”
SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — is an income based Federal program managed locally by Crawford County Job and Family Services in Bucyrus. Approximately 3,000 residents in Crawford County receive these benefits on a monthly basis. Because of the shutdown of the federal government, benefits for the month of February were distributed early to be sure recipients didn’t have to go without should the shutdown linger on.
But while the early distribution was intended to help the recipients stay ahead, it raised concerns that for many the benefits wouldn’t last long enough to get recipients to the next scheduled deposit in March.
“Those concerns brought us to the harsh reality that we needed to help,” Oehler continued. “If SNAP benefits should run out, or even if residents don’t qualify for them to begin with, the demand for help could cause many of our local food pantries to run low on their shelves.”
The United Way currently contributes funds to some local food pantries, but decided to dig deeper in light of current events. The governing board set aside a total of $5,000 that will be divided up and awarded to applicants.
A committee of five local representatives from Bucyrus Public Library, Galion Public Library, Crawford County Community Action, Job & Family Services, and Crawford County United Way will award the funds in $500 increments.
Interested applicants must have a 501c3 status, and can only use the funds to purchase food products.
Along with the establishment of the funding, came the idea that food availability is a problem in our area in general. With the lack of an established full service grocery store in Galion, the impact of food availability is affecting all levels of the income demographic locally.
As a next step in the hope of bettering the food source situation within Crawford County, local United Way leadership gathered various community groups and met in Bucyrus last Friday to discuss the current situation and establish hopes for the future. The well attended discussion brought together a diverse group of individuals who approached the situation from a wide range of experiences.
“Resources are there, but they aren’t connected like they were,” said Robin Hildebrand of Bucyrus based Crawford Works.
Other topics in the discussion included obesity rates as well as food education resources.
Planning is ongoing for the future of food sources in this area, but the Crawford County United Way is hopeful for what lies ahead.
“We want to continue the conversation and grow the involvement of the community as well,” said Oehler. “This is really just the beginning of finding a solution.”